William Holman Hunt's The Scapegoat: Rite of Forgiveness/Transference of Blame
AUTHOR: Albert Boime
By his own admission, the eminent Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt suffered from an "Oriental mania," and his justification for his several trips to the Holy Land fit the paradigm of the Orientalist explorer-adventurer-author characterized by Edward Said in his 1978 foundational text, Orientalism (FN 1). This is vividly glimpsed in a self-portrait of 1867 he donated to the Galleria degli Uffizi, depicting himself in the act of painting while wearing Middle Eastern costume. He shared this penchant for cultural cross-dressing with several other adventurers to the Middle East, most notably Richard Burton, whose portrait in full Arabic dress was painted by Hunt's good friend Thomas Seddon just a few months before Seddon and Hunt met in Cairo in 1854.(FN3) As George Landow pointed out, Hunt's imagination had been fired by his readings of The Thousand and One Nights, and he repeatedly referred to the Middle East as the land of Harun al-Rashid, the fabulous caliph of Baghdad featured in several of its tales. At the same time, he upheld many of the traditional Western biases about the Eastener, as revealed in a letter he wrote to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, from Cairo on March 12, 1854, stressing the indolence of Middle Eastern life, which he found reminiscent of Tennyson's "Lotus Eaters":
Hunt's travels, like those of his hero Edward Lane--translator of The Thousand and One Nights (1841) and author of Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836), considered at the time the definitive text on Muslim life--as well as those of Richard Burton, Anna Leonowens, Benjamin Disraeli, and, later, T. E. Lawrence, originated seemingly out of intellectual curiosity or as urgent pilgrimages to a sacred site. Even when they went native, as they all did, living out a split identity in their travels, they always enjoyed the advantages of superior resources and the knowledge that they were playing a role as a leaping-off point for a future literary narrative. Just as the Arabian Nights (and for Hunt, Tennyson) contributed to their "imaginary Orient," so in turn they would narrate the East for Western consumption. All of them, including Hunt, arrived in the confidence that the British nation stood solidly behind them and, consistent with the East-West binarism, interpreted Middle Eastern life from a standpoint of dominance that found its justification through standard Western representation.
Hunt perceived Jerusalem's multicultural society as the most "accursed" in the world and regarded the local inhabitants in the light of conventional racist tropes of difference and otherness. His correspondence is shot through with imperialist ideology: "Arabs are the meanest sneaks in the world"; "Niggers here ... are the most bigotted [sic] and the most dirty and the most revered of fanatics"; while "Rabbis live in secret luxury, keeping the poor continually croaking to procure further subscriptions."(FN5) Exulting in the British show of force in the Crimea, he bragged that on the front lines, with his British nationality "and a fist I would undertake to knock down any two Arabs in the Usbeykia and walk away unmolested." While painting the landscape for The Scapegoat, Hunt was confronted by a band of Arab horsemen who demanded water, and he retorted, "I am an Englishman; you are an Arab. Englishmen are not the servants of Arabs; I am employing Arabs for servants."(FN6)
Hunt encountered various indigenous Middle Eastern ethnicities that, he felt, had to be subdued, controlled, and, if Jewish, submitted to the dominant religious ideology of the West. Just as Benjamin Disraeli wrote novels that work through his psychological condition as both Jew and Christian, Hunt tried to find pictorial solutions to Christianity's relation to its Judaic roots. His journeys to the Holy Land were motivated in part by a missionary impulse that yearned to express itself in authentic and compelling images of biblical life. These pilgrimages were attempts to cover the ground of some aspect of Judeo-Christian actuality and reenact a sense of lived biblical experience. Hunt had previously informed his friend the painter Augustus Egg that he planned his journey to Palestine "to prove, so far as my painting can, that Christianity is a living faith; that the fullest realization of its wondrous story cannot unspiritualize it."(FN7) By saturating himself in the landscapes and negotiating with the indigenous, albeit to him alien, populations of the Holy Land, he imagined that his brand of realism could effect a genuine change in people's religious attitudes. Thus, Hunt could be cited as a clinical case study of Said's central argument that in the effort to document the Orient (the other), the West came to document itself. More specifically, I wish to emphasize in this paper the implicit role of the Orientalist discourse in the construction of Hunt's national, religious, and creative identity.
For Hunt, one group in particular constituted an anomaly in his travels. The Jews disoriented his Orientalism by refusing his cherished gift on behalf of a superior religious and political system. By focusing on Hunt's The Scapegoat and its allusions to this bumpy encounter, I hope to stir up the homogenizing waters of art historical critiques, most of which tend to omit this chapter in the history of Orientalism.(FN8) Hunt's personal quest for religious identity is inevitably tied to the Anglo-Christian view of the Jews as England's Orientalized other.(FN9) It is perhaps ironic that his remarkable representation of The Scapegoat carries as many personal projections as its prototypical subject did, including the projection of evil onto a marginal or powerless group or entity to justify subjugation.
In January 1854 Hunt left England for a two-year sojourn in Egypt and the Holy Land, and by the summer of 1854 he had scouted the remote area of the Dead Sea, which he identified by the Arabic "Usdum" or "Oosdoom," for the topographical location of The Scapegoat, a subject that profoundly affected him when researching Leviticus "for the ceremonies of Jewish worship" (Fig. 3).(FN10) Wishing to capture the light conditions of the period around Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement, whose ceremonies commemorate the scapegoat ritual), which occurred that year on October 2, he traveled there again for a few days of sketching near the end of October (when Hunt probably painted the small study now in the City of Manchester Art Galleries (FN11)). Three weeks later, he returned for a more extended stay, leaving Jerusalem on November 13 and painting most of the background of the definitive canvas on site between November 17 and 26.(FN12) Threatened by hostile indigenous peoples and natural calamities, he and his personal servant had several brushes with disaster during his effort to pose his white goat in the wilderness plain.
His animal represented the ancient goat driven from the temple on the Day of Atonement, bearing the sins of the community. Marked by the imprint of the bloodied priestly hand on its head, the expiring goat, its eyeballs rolling in its head, its parched tongue drooping, stands shakily on the saline slime, hopelessly abandoned in the inhospitable environment, where its tragic lot is presaged by the skeletal remains of other ill-fated creatures that preceded it.(FN13) There is perhaps no more powerful image of creature helplessness in the history of art, a representation of the last sickly remnant of a species on the verge of extinction. For Hunt the goat's doom further prognosticated the fading of Judaism and the beginning of a New Dispensation: the glimpse of the moon in the upper left may have been dictated by a typological link with the Passion of Christ (Saint Augustine compared the moon to the Old Testament, since both depended for illumination on borrowed light).(FN14) The elaborate frame Hunt designed for the picture further conjoins Old and New Testament imagery: the bottom horizontal bar shows a seven-branched menorah breaking up the title words into "The Scape" and "Goat," while the complementary seven stars of the top bar represent the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost--yet another typological link between Old and New Testaments.(FN15) On the left upright a dove with olive branch, alluding to the Noah story, is enclosed in a trefoil representing the Holy Trinity, and on the right, in a cruciform shape, is a pansy, or heartsease, traditionally the flower of the Trinity.(FN16) Finally, on top and bottom horizontals are the texts from Isaiah and Leviticus traditionally exploited as typological strategems to link Old Testament prophecy and law with the advent of the Messiah.(FN17) It would seem that Hunt wished to take the historic Jewish sacrificial rite and transform it into a Christian martyrdom, making the goat a surrogate Christ.
The atonement ritual implied both symbolic and performative components, transforming the animal into a carrier of evil that hauled off its hexed load like a trashman carting off the rubbish. This concept of the transfer of sin and evil onto a disposable beast seems to be as ancient as the belief in divine beings. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term scapegoat was coined by William Tyndale, born in Gloucester in 1494, a Protestant translator of the Bible who was himself "scapegoated" and burned at the stake by the Catholic establishment at Vilvoorde several miles north of Brussels in 1536. Tyndale's reading of Leviticus 16:10 renders the Hebrew Azazel as "The goote on which the lotte fell to scape"--most likely intending something like "the goat that was suffered to escape."(FN18) The word scape is defined as an aphetic form of the common word escape, meaning a primitive usage with a missing first vowel or syllable.(FN19) The somewhat archaic term scapegrace, for example, implies a person who has eluded the grace of God. The demonized scapegoat is similarly a creature who has escaped the zone of divine protection (and sacrificial slaughter).
The released goat ensured that purification and cleansing had taken place and that divine punishment had been avoided. As I intend to show, Hunt's tracing of the scape-goat's trail had to do with traits of identification involving a personal burden of sin that he attempts to neutralize by a double displacement: first, in metaphorically treating the Jewish alien in the British body politic and secondly, purifying it into Christianity. In a sense, he had first to become a Jew figuratively before becoming a Christian--thus rehearsing Christianity's roots. It was soon after completing The Awakening Conscience that Hunt made his first pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and The Scapegoat, his next definitive effort, pursues expiation in an environment far removed from the luxurious villa in St. John's Wood where the ménage of The Awakening Conscience took place.(FN20) The depiction of its vacuous white-collar protagonist would suggest that Hunt wished to regard the male figure's role in this affair as even more vicious than the female's. As a site of displacement for the painter's own preoccupation with sinful consciousness, the image urges us to explore the possibility that its theme may be "the Fallen Man." But to make The Scapegoat work as a history painting as well as a private confession, Hunt enfolded in it the idea of himself as a "fallen Jew" seeking redemption from transgression. Hence, The Scapegoat should be considered a conceptual pendant to The Awakening Conscience, and the forlorn quadruped understood to stand in for the absent male transgressor.(FN21)
Hunt had been entangled in a web of Victorian paradox just prior to his voyage to the Holy Land. Always uncomfortable with respectable young women from the cultivated class, he felt more at ease with the working-class model who posed for the woman in The Awakening Conscience, Annie Miller, a young, sexually active barmaid employed by the pub just around the corner from Hunt's studio.(FN22) They worked intensely together for several months and developed a close, if not yet intimate, relationship. While she posed, Hunt lectured to her on the perniciousness of sex outside marriage--evidently displacing his own guilty thoughts at the time he was working on his painful subject of sinful transgression and hoped-for redemption. Hunt was deeply attracted to Miller, the very type of female that he and his fellow Pre-Raphaelites fantasized about rescuing, but, insecure about his own social status and want of culture, he had trouble dealing with what he perceived to be her lower-class vulgarity and illiteracy. Nevertheless, he dreamed of elevating her through a rehabilitation program that he naively imagined would culminate in their marriage.(FN23) Anticipating George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, he hired both a former governess and a relative of Frederic Stephens (a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and close friend of Hunt who eventually abandoned a career as a painter for that of art critic) to train Annie and teach her appropriate social graces, commissioned Stephens to oversee the program and chaperon his ward, then abruptly departed for the Holy Land.(FN24)
Hunt later explained away his sudden departure on the grounds that he had planned his eventual two-year stay long before the completion of the picture and associated it with the breaking up of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood movement.(FN25) Yet since he also claimed that he had intended from the start to spend several years in the Middle East, it is inconceivable that he expected to return to find a totally transformed Annie waiting for him with open arms.(FN26) While he was gone, Annie and another Pre-Raphaelite, Gabriel Rossetti, became lovers, and then she had a torrid affair with the seventh Viscount Ranelagh, a dashing libertine straight out of Vanity Fair who called for her in a regal carriage and drank champagne from her slipper. When Hunt returned, he did not immediately abandon her, but kept up the pretense of wishing to transform her into his unblemished ideal. Ultimately giving up in frustration, he at one point offered to pay for her emigration to Australia so that she could begin life over, like Charles Dickens's Little Emily.
In the end, Hunt's fantasized solution took the form imagined by the Evangelical reformers: salvation on another plane of existence where there is "no marrying or giving in marriage."(FN27) Here is both the moral and the stated narrative link between The Light of the World and The Awakening Conscience(FN28)--the female victim of modern life could only find redemption, Magdalen-like, through Christ the Savior. At the same time, Hunt's schema of contrasting an idealized past with the corrupt present was so much a part of the Victorian mind-set that it must address a psychological condition more widespread than female waywardness. It would seem that what is being processed in this instance is the useful double standard that middle-class existence required in this period. Despite the divisive theological disputes that rocked the Church of England, the aggressive consolidation and materialist ambitions of the middle and lower middle classes (to which Hunt's family belonged) of small manufacturers, prosperous shopkeepers, and white-collar workers continued to be couched securely within the context of religious rectitude in which the slightest breath of scandal meant social death. The obsession of the standard-bearers of Victorian morality with loss of innocence probably related to their general neglect and mistrust of the poor and to their need to negotiate continually the increasingly public critique of their materialism and social conformity. Momentary glimmers of awakened conscience could be quickly blinkered by displacing them to dreams of a virginal past.
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD AND ANGLO-JUDAIC IDEOLOGY
Hunt sincerely believed in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood mission to use art instrumentally to bring about a spiritual change in the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens. No other work so clearly attests to this missionary zeal than the forbidding The Light of the World, arguably the most memorable of all British religious images (Fig. 5). It seems to embody the highest aspirations of the Gothic Revival and the Oxford movement, merging ritual and symbolic realism into a spiritually awesome whole. Hunt's aim in this instance was to turn the realist strategy on itself, carrying it to the point of such excess that it could oxymoronically convey an unearthly naturalism and arouse a feeling of spiritual uncanniness.(FN29)
Hunt shared with Sir John Everett Millais the exciting moment of the conception of the picture, sparked by a reading in Revelation (3:20): "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." He went on to explain the nocturnal effect unmentioned in the text:
Although Hunt specifies the precise point of departure for the work, he again complicates the textual sources by deriving his title from a passage in Saint John (8:12): "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." The use of the second text, however, is more than an intellectual conceit, for it justifies the night effect and gives a positive signification to an otherwise morose theme: Hunt needed the light as a metaphorical counterweight to the metaphorical gloom. When Millais volunteered to paint a companion piece to be called The Repentant Sinner, Hunt protested on the grounds that it would destroy the sense of uncertainty--what would be the response to Christ's knock?--that he wished to achieve. (Eventually, Hunt used Millais's idea in his own The Awakening Conscience, which he considered the material counterpart to The Light of the World.(FN31) Hunt's somewhat hysterical rejoinder to Millais's benign offer indicates his ambivalence toward the picture and his profound psychological investment in its achievement.
A reviewer for the Athenaeum characterized The Light of the World as "a most eccentric and mysterious picture" and claimed that the "face of this wild fantasy, though earnest and religious, is not that of a Saviour. It expresses such a strange mingling of disgust, fear, and imbecility, that we turn from it to relieve the sight."(FN32) Here, the alien qualities of the work are foregrounded, perhaps in response to the obvious manifestation of its Gothic and Tractarian tendencies. At the same time, its highly personal symbolism gave it a psychological twist that made many critics and friends--including the normally supportive Thomas Carlyle--uncomfortable.(FN33)
The rather negative reception of the picture impelled John Ruskin, the ardent Victorian art critic and social reformer, to rush to the defense of his protégé, who at the time was traveling in the Holy Land. In a letter to the Times of May 5, 1854, Ruskin called it "one of the very noblest works of sacred art ever produced in this or any other age." Yet his follow-up description of the picture suggests that even he perceived it as a bizarre presentation of the subject:
Ruskin then fixed on the controversial lantern, the "light of conscience," which is suspended by a chain wrapped around the wrist of Jesus, "showing that the light which reveals sin appears to the sinner also to chain the hand of Christ." The lantern's "fire is red and fierce; it falls only on the closed door, on the weeds which encumber it, and on an apple shaken from one of the trees of the orchard, thus marking that the entire awakening of the conscience is not merely to committed, but to hereditary guilt." Ruskin's stern Evangelical upbringing predisposed him to read this chilling image as "noble," but it is conceivable that his own heavy burden of guilt was aroused by the sight of the picture.(FN34)
Hunt admitted that the first visitors to his studio to inspect the work were mostly interested in its "occult" and "mystic" treatment, and that the details were based not on conventional ecclesiastical symbolism but on his own private fantasies. When Carlyle, the Scottish sage and historian, saw it, he delivered a loud and lengthy harangue:
In this fascinating commentary, Carlyle confounds the Jewish high priests and the Vatican's priests while upbraiding Hunt for garbing Christ in "priestly robes." Carlyle at once expressed his anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic feelings in his out-raged response to Hunt's picture, again pointing to its deep-seated psychological origins.
Hunt's obsession with making a Judeo-Anglican connection is seen in Christ's clasp, which, according to Stephens, conjoins "the Israelitish and Gentile breast-plates." Later, Stephens would clarify this remark by referring to the clasp's inclusion of the "mystic Urim and Thummim" and a set of precious stones bearing "the names of the chosen tribes." At one point in Hunt's research for the painting, he innocently inquired of a Jewish acquaintance if rabbis still wore the clasp containing the Urim and Thummim (these oracular devices for accessing the Godhead were kept in the pouch of the high priest's breastplate and became extinct around the time that the First Temple was destroyed), and if this were the case he wanted to borrow an example to depict in his painting.(FN36) Nevertheless, he showed awareness of the oracular function of the Urim and Thummim and the traditional Christian associations of them with "revelation and truth" and "lights and perfection." He also knew that the breastplate containing them was "four-square" and held twelve precious stones engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and that through these instruments God communicated with his people; indeed, according to Josephus, these oracles foretold victory in the field when rays of light emanated from the twelve precious stones.(FN37) Thus, it is not surprising to find below the domed top in front of the lantern three apertures unmistakably shaped in the form of the Star of David (Fig. 6); Hunt explained that "the diversity of designs of the openings of the lantern" were "essential to the spiritual interpretation of the subject."(FN38)
Hunt's painting stresses the Jewish origins of the founder of Christianity, and the artist hinted at an experience of epiphany during the production of this conversion narrative.(FN39) Victorian writers who supported the elimination of Jewish civil disabilities--that is, the denial of full civil and political rights to British Jewry(FN40)--emphasized the ancient "nobility" of the Jews, which gave the world a long line of majestic patriarchs, prophets, and kings. In 1833, on the occasion of a debate over the removal of Jewish civil disabilities, the archbishop of Canterbury declared that Jews "shone forth in ancient times, like a light in the firmament, proclaiming the attributes of the Creator, and the hope of a Redeemer to a benighted world."(FN41) Although the good archbishop voted against the bill, he seemed to have had in mind the same prophetic utterances of Isaiah (9:2) that may have informed Hunt's picture: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." The Light of the World comes as close as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood ever gets to manifesting the Disraeliesque tension between Anglicanism and what might be called "Anglican Judaism." All of the major Victorian intellectuals mentioned thus far were obsessed with Old Testament heroes while simultaneously invoking Jews as signifiers of otherness in British society.(FN42) Hunt himself, who traveled to the Holy Land seeking authentic Jewish subjects, could fall into a Dickensian mode in describing distastefully his chance meeting with "a short, bloated, dirty, satin waistcoated Jew of about forty."(FN43)
Hunt's attitude toward Jews--a curious admixture of fascination, religious admiration, and common prejudice--could be traced to his family. His autodidact father, William Hunt, kept a "Commonplace Book" in which he pasted clippings and recorded familiar sayings, poetry, and quotations from his diverse readings, and in it is a curious section on the Jews that opens with a quotation from Bishop Watson: "Whenever we have a Jew on the surface of the earth, there we have a man whose testimony and whose conduct connect the present with the beginning of all time." The elder Hunt then develops an essay taking off from this theme, which begins:
Then suddenly, the mood abruptly changes as William shifts to a more denunciatory and prophetic mode:
During the parliamentary debates on whether or not to amend the Jewish Disabilities Act to admit practicing Jews to sit in the House of Commons, the Conservative leader Benjamin Disraeli offended the members of Parliament by reminding them of the contradiction between British anti-Semitism and the fact of Judaism as forerunner of Christianity. His ideal of a synthesis of Judaism and Christianity, growing out of his own upbringing as an Anglican and articulated in his Young England trilogy of the 1830s and 1840s, gave rise to the enigmatic fictional character of Sidonia--a character as impossibly godly as Fagin was diabolical, and whose ambiguities resonate with Hunt's The Light of the World.
Sidonia, who is "of that faith that the apostles professed before they followed their Master," fires the inspiration of the eponymous hero of Coningsby (1844). He was born into an ancient and noble family of Aragonese Jews whose ancestors became nuevos cristianos--although his father immigrated to England and there revived the ancient faith. Hovering in the twilight zone between Anglicanism and Judaism, Sidonia appears on the scene like Star Trek's Mr. Spock, a wholly rational creature without feeling, in possession of "secret knowledge," which is the key to his immense influence in society. He attracts Young England (the youthful reform-minded Tories that gathered under Disraeli's banner) by assisting them in their search for spiritual consolation. Coningsby yearns to emulate Sidonia and carry out his plans of "regenerating the national character" through High Church principles.
Disraeli's Anglo-Judaic synthesis centered on the dual notion of restoring Christianity to its Jewish roots while restoring rabbinic Judaism to its biblical foundations right up to the advent of Christ. In his classic Orientalist novel Tancred (published in March 1847), Sidonia and the eponymous hero mull over the contradictions of the Church of England, torn on the one hand by infidelity and by an anarchy of creeds on the other. Tancred deplores the fact that "nobody now thinks about heaven. They never dream of angels. All their existence is concentrated in steamboats and railways." Sidonia inclines the protagonist in the direction of the Tractarians and inspires his pilgrimage to the Holy Land as a kind of modern crusade to replenish the wellsprings of "celestial quality." Sidonia admonishes Tancred to go to the fountainhead, the source of renewal.
Once in Jerusalem, Tancred encounters the love of his life in the stunning Jewish woman named Eva, who drills him on his belief system. In response she declares that Jesus "was a great man, but he was a Jew; and you worship him." And slightly later she reiterates the central theme of the book: "We agree that half Christendom worships a Jewess, and the other half a Jew." Disraeli persistently drums home this message to his British audience: "Christianity is Judaism for the multitude, but still it is Judaism, and its development was the death-blow of the Pagan idolatry."
Disraeli reconciles his paradoxical enthusiasm for the Tractarians and Anglo-Catholicism with his pro-Jewish utterances by locating their common ground. In Sybil (1845), the first work in the trilogy of Young England, Aubrey St. Lys, the sympathetic vicar of Mowbray and ceremonial revivalist, argues with Lord Egremont that the Church of Rome is the only Hebreo-Christian church extant, the last link to the original Hebraic ceremonies that existed before Rome. Rome did not invent the ceremonies--this was the work of the prophets, Moses, and Aaron the High Priest, "greater than any pope or prelate." St. Lys claims that the New Testament is only a supplement, and that "Christianity is completed Judaism, or it is nothing."
At the same time, Disraeli's mouthpiece eschews Rome as the goal and remains loyal to the Church of England as the national religion; his ideal is less a synthesis of the Roman Church and the English Church than a merging of Anglicanism with Hebraism predicated on the prior claims of Jerusalem and its biblical descendants:
It may be easily seen why Disraeli's bizarre theology would have driven Anglican Tories like Dickens and the editorialists of the Times to a frenzy. I believe that Dicken's early denunciation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as an aesthetic offshoot of Young England is remarkable evidence of Disraeli's influence on the Pre-Raphaelite sensibility.(FN45)
Disraeli's emphasis on Judaism as the foundation of Christianity is echoed in Hunt's dualization of Christ as High Priest and Messianic Redeemer. Hunt's initial voyage to the Holy Land follows the ideological pattern of Tancred's, as both seek evidence of "primitive" worship and ceremony, and both decry "the ugliness, emptiness, and class vulgarity of the Anglican and Prussian worship, as found in the city of Jerusalem."(FN46) Hunt immerses himself in rabbinic law, visits the synagogues on the Sabbath and Passover, and reads the Old Testament, the Talmud, and Josephus, ready "to reject tradition, religious as well as artistic, not convincingly true."(FN47) Like Tancred, Hunt sought to disclose the possibilities of spiritual renewal not only through surface contact with the source of all religion but also through imperial mastery of the spaces of the Oriental others to guarantee that renewal.
Significantly, when Hunt visited the Holy Land in search of authentic Jewish models for his New Testament themes, he claimed to have felt most at home with converted or "Messianic" Jews. At the time, intense British missionary efforts in the Holy Land were operating as an adjunct to British strategic interests in seeking to establish a Protestant foothold in the predominantly Greek Orthodox and Latin Catholic Christian environment. The British campaign was dominated by the evangelical London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews (founded 1809) and the Presbyterian British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews (founded 1842).(FN48) The former, established by Anglicans, was then also known as the London Jews' Society and is today familiarly called either Church Missions to Jews or Church's Ministry among the Jews (or simply CMJ). Its mission was stationed on what was then called Mt. Zion, in the vicinity of the Anglican church at Jaffa Gate, near the Jewish quarter.(FN49) The chief stated aim of the English bishop was the conversion of all Jews in the Ottoman Empire, as well as their protection and gainful employment.(FN50) The founders of the society built Christ Church in Jerusalem, designing it with a synagogue in mind and decorating it with sacred Jewish symbols and Hebrew inscriptions, and consecrated it for public worship in 1849 as a Hebrew Christian Church.(FN51) The British consul, James Finn, and his wife, Elizabeth Anne (herself the child of a missionary to the Jews(FN52)), who resided within the church complex, maintained close ties with the missionary community.(FN53) In Hunt's time, the society was headed by Bishop Samuel Edward Gobat and John Nicolayson, the rector of the Anglican church at Jaffa Gate, along with Dr. Edward McGowan, who administered a hospital for poor invalid Jews, and Dr. John Sim, his surgeon colleague. (Hunt later fell out with Bishop Gobat in a bitter dispute over the character of one of the Arab converts.(FN54)) Rev. William J. Beamont--who joined Hunt in his October trek to the Dead Sea--headed briefly the Jerusalem English College under the auspices of the missionary society, where he delivered exegetical lectures on the Old and New Testaments. Bishop Gobat and Consul Finn also established the Society for the Literary and Scientific Investigation of Holy Land Culture, which engaged speakers on a wide variety of subjects popular among the British colony. The entire program of cultural activities was carried out within the framework of a colonial strategy, promoted by a sense of religious superiority and the mission civilatrice.
Hunt established close contact with most of the members of the London Jews' Society's mission in Jerusalem, and they facilitated his projects and travels in the Holy Land.(FN55) Although his initially favorable impression of the missionary community would turn to disillusionment the following year, he maintained cordial relations with them through the completion of The Scapegoat in June 1855.(FN56) Among other things, the missionary station tried to help him locate Jewish models for The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple--his initial Holy Land project, which had to be abandoned when he encountered Jewish resistance to the Christian theme (Fig. 7). He was befriended initially, however, by Erasmus S. Calman, a converted Jew who had served as managing superintendent of the short-lived college for training Hebrew Christian missionaries (1845-46) and subsequently as keeper of the hospital. Hunt praised Calman as an example of "the sincerity of some Jewish conversion."(FN57) Despite Hunt's fervent belief in Christianity as the New Dispensation, the continuing existence of the stiff-necked Jew was a living reproof of Hunt's religious heritage, and meeting sincerely converted Jews shored up his religious identity and confirmed the rightness of his spiritual quest.(FN58)
Hunt therefore made common cause with the missionaries, for whom conversion was the highest earthly priority.(FN59) Their views were summed up in an "appeal" in the society's jubilee statement of 1894 that the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews wished Queen Victoria to voice to "the Lords and Gentlemen of the Commons":
Perhaps more significantly, the secretary of the society, in this jubilee appeal, referred to the "unparalleled sufferings" of the ancient people whose "stars of faith and hope" never ceased burning brightly "in the deep dreadful night of persecution." Through "faith in a crucified, living, loving, coming Christ" they will sing for joy on Mt. Zion, "and all the nations round about them will sing with them."(FN61) Yet conversion was not, of course, a simple matter of Jews recognizing that their Messiah had come. Jesus had made the tremendous and unprecedented claim to be able to forgive sins, and this made him not only Messiah but also Scapegoat. Paul's view that human beings, powerless to deal with their bondage to sin, are incapable of atonement on their own and require the intercession of the divine Christ was meant to repudiate the Jewish understanding that when people sin, repentance will bring atonement.(FN62)
Thus, Christianity broke from Judaism in offering a dramatically different penitential system to replace the New Year and Day of Atonement. Since it was a given for the missionary societies that Jews were sinners by virtue of their repudiation of the Christian Messiah, the first stage of the conversion process consisted of emphasizing the error of their ways, followed by relieving them of this burden by commending the Savior's death as the means of atonement. Such thinking resulted in an unceasing flow of urgent "appeals to the Jews" insisting they rethink the claim to the status of Messiah advanced for Jesus of Nazareth.
William Beamont, a companion of Hunt's whose diary details both their thoughts on this issue, attended the English service at Christ Church on Sunday, October 1, 1854, the day before Yom Kippur, where he heard a sermon on the nature and necessity of repentance preached by Henry Crawford, a clergyman attached to the London Jews' Society's mission. Crawford had specifically in mind "some errors on the nature and need of repentance, which the Jews, who are now keeping in Jerusalem their great festival of the Atonement, entertain, but there was much to be found in his forcible, charitable and judicious sermon, that was calculated to benefit all classes of his hearers."(FN63) On the Day of Atonement, Beamont entered the Jewish quarter and visited several synagogues, those with Sephardic as well as Ashkenazic congregations. He disparaged their customs and one rabbi's feeble attempt to discourse on humility, a subject, he asserted, that would have been more effectively treated by "a Christian." He then added, "If it be true, which I hope it is not, that a Jew is obliged to read the Talmud oftener than his Bible, the old reproach of this people remains, that they make void the word by their traditions."(FN64)
The devout Jews, with "curled ringlets depending on each side" of their faces, drove Beamont to exasperation. Even while the missionary stations preached love and forbearance in attempting to win Jews to the Gospels, their members expressed loathing for the recalcitrant old-timers who rejected their advances. Beamont's repugnance for this type is seen in his description of one aged "Isaac of York" on board his ship, who "had a long grey beard, wore a faded velvet cap with a double row of sable fur wreathed around it, and grey gabardine, such as Shylock wore, and Antonio spat upon, as you might have been tempted to do upon this."(FN65)
Such an attitude on the part of the missionaries must have put quite a strain on their confidence in the outcome of their mission. Initially, Hunt himself arrived with a missionary's zeal to convince the Jews that the Messiah they still sought was none other than the Christ. Thus, the British consul, Finn, who was dedicated to the idea of a restored Israel, warmed to the arrival of Hunt and Seddon, "who came to reside in the Holy City in order to study Bible scenes and Eastern customs."(FN66) They also attended Beamont's lectures in the missionary college on the Old and New Testaments. But when Hunt ran smack into a community of Jews whose religious devotion was as constant as that of his fervent Anglican friends at home, he settled for making his point exclusively on canvas. Hunt wrote Rossetti from Jerusalem about his painting The Scapegoat, "I should have thought the subject demanding immediate illustration had I not had the opportunity of painting this extraordinary spot as background from Nature, and had not the Jewish conceptions of the Messiah which they have formed without attention to types and prophecies, such as this, been brought so often before my eyes."(FN67)
Despite his avowed anti-Jewish attitudes, Hunt continued to plunge passionately into the practices of the Jewish community, even growing a beard for the purpose of "conciliating the Jews." He steeped himself in the Old Testament and Talmudic commentaries, familiarizing himself with the principal holidays and rituals. He had launched his artistic activity with The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple, a work redolent with reminders of the displacement of the Old with the New Dispensation. But he was forced to halt work on this project for want of willing Jewish models. As Finn explained:
The most memorable work to emerge from this dilemma was The Scapegoat, an image that, while attempting to synthesize the Jewish concept of ritual atonement and the Christian concept of self-sacrificial martyrdom, required no human subject. Again Finn:
Hunt's ambition to be as factually precise as possible--the Christian missionaries to the Jews knew the Talmudic tractate Yoma, which comments on the scapegoat ritual, and probably advised Hunt on some of its subtleties(FN70)--was consistent with Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood aims, but he was especially at pains to produce a convincing image of the Holy Land that would give substance to Christian faith. Seddon commented on the failure of the photographs of James Graham (lay secretary to the London Jews' Society's mission in Jerusalem and an amateur photographer(FN71)) to reveal accurately the character of the topography (greens and yellows appeared very dark, preventing the eye from distinguishing between grass and shadow). Seddon had also complained about distortions in the engravings of Jerusalem that he had seen and about the errors of the illustrated books that he had reviewed.(FN72) He was particularly incensed by the books on Syria published by the Christian Knowledge Society, whose illustrations were not only unrecognizable but often "entirely false." He found in one of their books the same woodcut used to represent two different towns, and when he returned to London he hoped to set them straight by protesting "against their pretended 'Christian knowledge,' which is most unchristian story-telling."(FN73) "Christianizing" the imagery meant telling the truth about the Holy Land, and this motive was at the heart of Hunt's and Seddon's enterprise.
A similar motivation drove the American painter Edward Troye to enter the same forbidding precinct as Hunt in almost the same period, camping at the southern tip of the Dead Sea and painting a landscape even more relentless in its horizontality and terrifying emptiness (Fig. 8). Troye's interest was less a narrative gambit than an apocalyptic setting for the Cities of the Plain, a vivid visual construct to teach church doctrine. A pamphlet he wrote to accompany the exhibition of his works from this visit noted that "they were executed upon the locations they represent" and were not "creations of his own imagination." Emphasizing the unchanging aspects of the topography, he made the case for the unbroken continuity of scriptural history with the living present.(FN74) This attitude is further confirmed by Seddon's observation on his experience of the sacred sites:
And he added in respect to Hunt, to whom he deferred in intellectual judgment and leadership:
Seddon's observation squares with Hunt's journal entries during his sojourn in the terrifying desert solitude. He feels his undertaking so morally correct that he experiences God's merciful protection from the dangers that beset him, and he even justifies working on the Christian Sabbath with the rationale that his occupation is comparable "to that of the priests," as he wrote to William Michael Rossetti on August 12, 1855.(FN76) In this letter he stated, with The Scapegoat in mind, that landscape must be done in "the spirit of the Apostles fearing nothing, going amongst robbers, and in deserts with impunity as men without any thing to lose."(FN77)
At a memorial gathering in Seddon's honor at Hunt's house in 1856, Ruskin addressed those present with his thoughts on this kind of sacred naturalism:
Speaking these words in the presence of Hunt and his fellow Pre-Raphaelites, Ruskin no doubt meant to link Seddon with their objectives and to affirm his support of Hunt's mode of representation in The Scapegoat. At the same time, Ruskin affirmed his own programmatic call for a naturalism in the service of religion, "at once entirely skilful and entirely sincere."(FN79)
Hunt's own ambition for a realist solution to religious themes runs along analogous lines. It would seem that the very formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood arose from the crisis into which British Christianity was thrown by the challenges of scientific thought and democratic politics. Anglicans stepped up efforts to suppress dissent and factionalism, restore ritual and color to church services, and organize large-scale vehicles of propaganda like the Oxford movement to stanch the flow of backsliders and indifferentists. Taking a different tack, Pre-Raphaelite artists sought to combine religious aims with an objective scientific method. This difference of approach extended into attitudes toward the Jews. Some Christian denominations, regarding the Jews as more rationalist and materialist than Christians, counted them among their most formidable antagonists and bitter foes. The term Hebraism or Hebraicism traditionally designated a rationalist ideology, and even the American author Herman Melville in Clarel, a work inspired by his own disillusioning visit to the Holy Land, made his Jewish materialist Margoth a geologist who keeps his outlook limited to the rocks.(FN80) This threat from the Jews could be dissipated, however, and modern Christianity rejuvenated through the transforming grace of conversion. An early Scottish missionary to Palestine, Robert M. MacCheyne, hinted at this larger dimension of proselytizing in an 1839 sermon in announcing that dispensing light to the Jews would sweep the "cobwebs of controversy" out of the sanctuaries: "the jarrings and jealousies of our church be turned into the harmony of praise--and our own souls become like a well-watered garden."(FN81) Another missionary of the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews, taking on the controversial philo-Semitism of Disraeli, wrote eight years later: "It is clear that [the Jews'] conversion, as it is coincident with the conversion of the world to Christ, will be preparatory to it, and promotive of it; and therefore anxiety for the welfare of our own race must lead us to be peculiarly anxious for the conversion of the Jews as a means to the accomplishment of that great end." And he added, "The author of Tancred seems to think that we shall all go back to Judaism. My conviction is that Judaism and heathenism are going forward to Christianity."(FN82)
But conversion of the Jews was expected to resolve more than one modern crisis for Christianity. It was expected as well to unite the various Christian communities around a common religious identity and thereby end sectarianism. The same minister who condescended to Disraeli's philo-Semitism observed that Jews resisted conversion to Christianity in papal countries, "where they see worship paid to inferior beings." He then attacked his brethren for establishing a poor role model by "going over to popery" and "building up a stumbling-block in the way of the conversion of the Jews, instead of taking it down." And he underscored the need for Christian unity in order to gain the trust of the Jews:
Also at stake was the revitalizing of Anglicanism, as Richard Alliott, editor of the Jewish Herald, published by the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel argued in his inaugural editorial on January 1, 1846:
The statement indicates that the church accepted as a given the idea of a "fallen" Jewish people, thus allowing Hunt to identify his personal sense of sin and ultimate hope for salvation with the Israelites. At the same time, their salvation--and by extension his, as expressed in the form of visual propaganda--also provided a remedy for the church's crisis of belief. The theme of the scapegoat proved to be a happy choice to conciliate the twin demons tormenting him: the internal threat of his own sexuality and the external threat of a competitive Jewish tradition whose persistence mocked both Christianity's claims to an exclusive religious truth and the West's homogenized discourse of the East.
THE SCAPEGOAT'S CALL TO REPENTANCE AND IMPERIALIST OFFERING
Hunt took it as a given that the Jews are a "fallen" race whose "salvation" is sought as an antidote to the crisis of faith in contemporary Protestant Christianity--Judaism's legitimate offspring. Perhaps, then, Hunt's theme of the scapegoat could have reconciled Hunt's individual sense of guilt with the presumed collective guilt of the Jewish people, while at the same time offering a remedial and penitential solution for himself and the church.(FN85) That the subject touched him on a profoundly personal level is evidenced by his exhaustive background research and especially by his perilous journey into the desert with his entourage to paint the work under conditions of intense discomfort and privation. The biblical account of the scapegoat is given in Leviticus, chapter 16, where the Supreme Being directs Aaron through Moses to inaugurate the key ritual for the Day of Atonement by casting lots upon two goats, "one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat." The first goat was to become a sin offering, the other to be "presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness." In Leviticus, the wasteland to which the goat is dispatched is called Azazel, a term whose meaning is disputed in Talmudic commentaries. One interpretation holds that Azazel is a place inhabited by a supernatural power, "a land which is cut off." Another related idea is that the wilderness site was occupied by demons, and that the original purpose of the ritual was to eliminate evil by banishing it to its original source. A third interpretation suggests that the name Azazel combines the Hebrew word for goat and the Aramaic root of the verb "to go," its meaning thus the "goat that goes." The precise nature of the animal's demise was a matter of debate: it may have been left to die or else hurled from a mountain peak (Fig. 9).(FN86) All of the Talmudic sages agree that the sacrificial rite aimed at purifying the community by removing all of its members' sins to an inaccessible and uninhabited zone, and through this act of atonement regenerated and restored Israel to a state of grace.
Kenneth P. Bendiner has pointed out that in Hunt's description of The Scapegoat for the catalogue of the Royal Academy's exhibition in 1856, he elaborated on the atonement ritual in a way that indicates unnecessary cruelty to the animal. Hunt claimed that on occasion the goat refused to leap off the precipice and turned aside, whereupon it was "hooted and driven away by every Israelite who met it, until it had reached a land not inhabited."(FN87) Here is yet another example of Hunt's attempt to discredit Jewish rituals as antiquated and barbaric while attempting maximum verisimilitude in his representation of them. Writing to Millais on November 10-12, 1854, from Jerusalem, Hunt discussed both his immersion in Jewish culture and the detailed plans for his picture. Trying to fathom Jewish fund-raising in the synagogue (Jews collect no money directly in their places of worship but set aside time during the service to receive pledges for donations), Hunt bemoaned the current state of the Jews and regretted how
Condensed in this remarkable paragraph is nearly the entire repertoire of anti-Semitic tropes, as Hunt rationalizes Jewish civil disabilities and justifies Western prejudice by projecting "a spirit of hatred" onto the Orientalized other, the "despised and rejected" victims of worldwide persecution. On the other hand, he knows that he is bearing witness to an analogous historical reaction of Pharisaism to that "revelation ... from Heaven" in which Jesus himself participated over nineteen hundred years earlier.
The Jewish community of Jerusalem was displeased with Hunt's project and attitude. Hunt blamed his problems on the interference of the rabbis, threatened by the number of Jewish converts to Protestantism.(FN89) Seddon confirms other accounts when he tells us that Hunt's search for models for his scenes of Christian subjects caused quite a stir. Hunt's preparations for his project were specifically associated with missionary activity, and he had to vehemently disavow this connection to regain the trust of local Jews. An emissary of the Rothschilds was sent to oversee missionary relations with the native Jewish population, and Seddon observed of him early in August 1854:
From the perspective of Hunt's realist intentions he had no other option than to paint a figureless composition, an option that converged with his frustration with the local Jewish community.
In his letter of November 10-12 to Millais, Hunt wrote that he was on his way to the southern end of the Dead Sea, where he intended to set up camp and paint the background for his picture. The godforsaken area he chose for his landscape was near the range of limestone and salt hills (Jebel Usdum) at the southwest tip, the region known in Arabic as the Kharbet Usdum (Hunt's "Oosdoom"), probably traceable etymologically to Sodom.(FN91) Beamont provided a vivid description of the environment in a diary entry during the earlier trip in late October, when Hunt made a reconnaissance of the area to be depicted:
Clearly, the site--minus the unexpected rainbow that Hunt included in his preliminary study done in October(FN93)--served well Hunt's vision of an accursed zone. Running for several miles east and west, at a height ranging from three hundred to four hundred feet, these desolate hills are composed of rock salt, capped with a bed of gypsum and chalk.(FN94) They framed the vast expanse of brine and muddy flats where Hunt set up shop. Here he led the goat over the surface to study its manner of remaining upright on the mushy saline crust. Submitted to conditions unfit for man or beast, the goat eventually took sick, became too weak to walk, and died just as Hunt began sketching its head.
In the same letter to Millais of November 10-12, Hunt referred his colleague to the Old Testament account of the scapegoat, "sent a way into the wilderness bearing all the sins of the children of Israel which of course was instituted as a kind of Christ." He then reinforced this typological interpretation of the scapegoat as a means of convincing the Jews in his midst of Christ's authentic claim to the Messiahship:
Elsewhere, Hunt noted that the imprecision with which the Talmud described the placing of the crimson thread on the goat's head allowed him some leeway, so he engineered it around the horns "to suggest the crown of thorns."(FN96) The hoped-for change in color from crimson to white when the goat reached the wilderness (the sign registered by a thread of crimson wool tied to the door of the temple) resonated with Isaiah's prophecy (1:18), quoted in the Talmud and often exploited in Christian typology as an allusion to Jesus' sacrifice: "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."
In this interpretation, Christ becomes not only a Jewish scapegoat but a scapegoat for the Jews. This irony is pointed out by other missionary statements: for example, that all Gentiles have the obligation to convert the Jews, "arising from our persuasion of the guilt which they are contracting by their rejection of Christ,"(FN97) or that missionaries must "do what in us lies to rescue [the Jews] from perdition by furnishing them with the means of grace, and urging upon them the necessity of fleeing the wrath to come to HIM whom their forefathers crucified and slew, but who is exalted a Prince and a Saviour for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."(FN98) Learned Christians believed that it was no longer possible for Jews to expect forgiveness of sin, as they no longer had the means for a sacrifice of atonement.(FN99) In any case, several theologians condemned Hunt's painting as heretical; they would have preferred the goat to be "the bearer of Heaven's blessings and represent the risen and glorified Saviour." Hunt, however, reasoned that the Apostles themselves might have regarded the scapegoat "as a symbol of the Christian Church, thus teaching both them and their followers submission and patience under affliction." He then elaborated on the idea of Jesus as scapegoat for the Jews:
Perhaps one level of irony in this context eluded Hunt: the experience of the Jews themselves as perennial scapegoats for the converted world. Christian doctrine largely held that the Jews had paid for the Crucifixion with the penalty of dispersion, and this further served to institutionalize their role as scapegoat, but the Jews could remain resistent to conversion by blaming their troubles on others' belief in Christ. Adding insult to this irony is Hunt's blasphemous gesture of associating a he-goat with Christ--surely an unarticulated reason for the puzzled responses of the critics at the 1856 exhibition, who tended to repress their reactions in a close examination of the work's mimetic achievement. Initially, Hunt had determined to represent a black goat as Azazel--further evidence of his hermeneutic ambivalence. Given the demonic interpretation of Azazel, the diabolical stereotype associated with Jews, and the traditional he-goat avatar of the Devil, it would not be difficult to find a satanic subtext for Hunt's image. Hunt himself described a cave near the site of his painting as the "cavern of Dis" and thought of the "Stygian lake," evidence that he identified the region with the netherworld. As he noted in his diary on November 19:
Despite the naturalistic rendering of the goat in its inhospitable environment, the work overall lends itself to an ambiguous and subversive reading. Although several of its features tally with descriptions given by other travelers to the region--the water's greenish hue, the sparkling salt-encrusted banks, the driftwood, the walls of bald limestone and salt rock exposed to the sun's relentless rays, the sterility and deathlike solitude--Hunt seems to have embellished the topography with his sunburnt vision of Azazel.(FN102) The lurid yellow-orange-greens of the sky and the fiery purples and violets of the mountains in the sunset seem more appropriate to a drug-induced hallucination than to a landscape painted on the spot. The Scapegoat is unprecedentedly a realist image hovering in an actual twilight zone where all human reference has been obliterated and distinctions between religious genre, landscape, and animal painting have collapsed. Thwarted in his attempt to find Jews who would agree to pose, Hunt chose a theme that required no human subject and therefore harmonized with the Jewish prohibition against graven images.(FN103) At the same time, the desolate landscape and the solitary goat perfectly express Hunt's aim to rescript the links between Temple Judaism and Protestant Christianity while occluding allusions to modern Jewry. Thus, the process of selective historical memory enabled Hunt to secure his Christian identity.
Critics at the time seemed unsure what to make of Hunt's eccentric naturalism. The Athenaeum's critic underscored the "salt, supernatural shore, crisp and splashy," where the littered remains of animals "throw ghastly ribbed reflections into briny pools." He characterized the central image of the exhausted animal in grisly terms: "On the crumbling shore, its forefeet sunk in the oozy, salt-encrusted sand, stands the Scapegoat,--the scarlet fillet of the priest bound below its horns. The dry tongue hangs from its mouth, and its eye is glazed and filmed with the mist of a thirsty death." Still, this critic was willing to overlook the eccentric qualities of the composition and give Hunt the benefit of the doubt, accepting as "strictly true" the bizarre colorations and desolate environment, "however strange, and apparently unnatural."(FN104) A perhaps more disturbing aspect of the work for contemporaries, more unsettling than the nexus of domestic beast and desert waste, was that the hapless animal, in addition to its load of transgressions, had to carry the meaning of the picture. Meant to signify both a satanic and a sacred purpose, the image as painted offers no signs of redemption, and unlike the quasi-allegorical pups and stags of Edwin Landseer, Hunt's quadruped demanded from the beholder the scrutiny accorded in its time to ambitious history painting.(FN105) This investment of viewing energy into what would have been considered a negative Jewish image may have reinforced the demonic reading of the isolated creature. Poised on the inhospitable site of a once flourishing city of vice, the animal emissary's ambiguity was resolved into an object of scorn. The Athenaeum's reviewer could not abide Hunt's pretense of the goat as "a type of Saviour" despite the invocation of Talmudic authority in the catalogue. The dying goat, as goat, held out no more interest "than the sheep that furnished our yesterday's dinner," and he censured the artist for trying to pass it off as allegorical. The bewildered art dealer Ernest Gambart, who had initially considered acquiring the work, ultimately refused it on similar grounds, concluding that the religious construction that Hunt gave it would be unintelligible to a popular audience.(FN106)
Ruskin's long review of the picture was uncharacteristically ambivalent. He claimed that the "singular picture" was "in many respects faultful, and in some wholly a failure," and yet it was the one work in the gallery "which should furnish us with most food for thought." Regarded merely as landscape, or as a composition, The Scapegoat appeared to Ruskin "a total failure." Not only did it lack good "hair painting" and "hoof painting," but the centering of the animal made it look "as if it were painted for a sign."(FN107) Hunt reminded Ruskin of the "mediaeval pilgrim" who traveled to the Holy Land to do God's work, committing himself to a dreary and pestiferous environment to nurture his spiritual sense and return with an icon to inspire others. Significantly, Ruskin also called attention to the coincidence of the Crimean War with the evolution of the picture. He observed that Hunt reached the Holy Land just as the clouds of war were gathering to the north, and that he painted his "weary goat" on the salt sand "while the hills of the Crimea were white with tents of war, and the fiercest passions of the nations of Europe burned in high funereal flames over their innumerable dead." Hunt felt guilty about his absence from England at this time, noting that all his "best friends were in the throes of anxiety, private and public. The Russian war was reddening the world with blood, and in the loneliness of Syria the circumstances of the contest loomed portentously huge and cruel." Hunt also confessed that the Crimean War awakened in him "the deepest concern; never during my life," he wrote, "had England been engaged in contest with a European power. I thought of the horrors of the struggle, but I felt sure that our quarrel was a just one, for the inordinate claims of Russia had left us no choice."(FN108) Whatever Hunt's misgivings about his absence from Europe, Ruskin saw a parallel between Hunt's foray into the hostile wilderness and British heroism in the Crimea. Hunt's brave English heart had led him to a dangerous and inhospitable zone where even the local Arabs refused "to encamp for the night."
In this way, Disraeli's Tancred, which prefigured Britain's international pretensions in the nineteenth century, influenced at once Hunt's religious and imperial ideologies. A close reading of Hunt's memoirs and Tancred reveals parallels in their series of wild adventures and close encounters with Arab peoples, and like Tancred, Hunt armed himself to the teeth as leader of a desert expedition. Tancred's dreams of conquering the Middle East are echoed in Hunt's fantasy "of overcoming neighbouring tribes, dislodging the Turks from Judea, restoring the Jews to their long-lost kingdom," and generally settling the Eastern question--ideas that Hunt says are "tempting even to a peaceful P.R.B." Unlike Tancred, however, Hunt concludes that it would be preferable to leave "the work of bringing back Israel to some one richer in meekness and otherwise more equal than myself to the task of establishing the Kingdom of Peace on earth."(FN109)
Hunt in any case was clearly possessed by a driving need to make a grand statement suitable to his vision of the Holy Land and of the British national enterprise alike, and both were inevitably skewed by his tortured religious conscience and Victorian prejudices.(FN110) Jan Marsh cautiously observed autobiographical references in the goat, mentioning in a footnote that Hunt painted the hair of the goat's head in the typical style of his own haircut.(FN111) (In The Awakening Conscience the male's muttonchops and mouth agape with exposed teeth also find an echo in the animal's physiognomy [Fig. 13]). Even in Hunt's own time the goat was seen to have an anthropomorphic head; it was described by one wit as an "excellent portrait" of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, the British ambassador to Constantinople and diplomatic expert on the Turkish Empire whose negotiations on the Christian holy places were blamed for the outbreak of the Crimean hostilities.(FN112)
More personally and more demonstrably, the theme of The Scapegoat resurrected Hunt's childhood nightmares of Hell and the Devil and aroused his native superstitious bent.(FN113) Moreover, Hunt's voluntary banishment and the commanded banishment of the animal became confounded in his religious conflicts. He confessed that if he succeeded in his Dead Sea scene in recovering "sensible figures of men's secret deeds and thoughts, then is this the horrible figure of Sin--a varnished deceit--earth joys at hand but Hell gaping behind, a stealthy, terrible enemy for ever."(FN114) Thus, his attempt to reconcile Judaism and Christianity through a symbol of sinfulness constituted one more attempt to exorcise his own tormenting demons.
Of course, the image of the goat alone could not carry all the layers of meaning--personal, theological, and political--that Hunt assigned to it. Whereas the typological pretext could work in The Hireling Shepherd (a biblical parable performed by contemporary peasants who ignore their flock) and The Light of the World, it was doomed to failure in The Scapegoat--evidence of the limits of Pre-Raphaelite aims and methods--because the more Hunt succeeded in replicating the animal, the more it resembled a splendid zoological specimen from a contemporary natural history manual. If the work manages to convey more intensity than a Landseer or a Rosa Bonheur picture, it achieves this end through less than glorified representation of the brute and the lurid colorations of the environment that operate as the tortured expression of Hunt's private conflicts. It must be said, however, that probably no image could have carried the freight of contradictory meanings that the construction "Jew" had to bear in Britain during Hunt's lifetime.
Once the signifier of otherness for English society, Jews had been compressed into unchanging categories of good and evil, the "good Jew" and the "bad Jew." However, as the bifurcated stereotypes so neatly enunciated by Hunt's father's generation were contested and the Jewish people seen as a necessary player in a projected new spiritual and temporal order, the old stereotypes collapsed under the strain of exploding and contradictory representations. At the same time, the dynamics of these disputes--soon to be resolved in a racial and biological discourse--showed the impossibility of maintaining a stable definition to control and order this rapidly changing reality. Hunt's own tenuous position as an artist was not unrelated to the tense position of Anglo-Jewry within British society, and his ambivalent self-identification with Jews had to be repressed in order to fulfill his class and religious ideals. Just as the missionary urge to reincorporate society's quintessential outcast as a repentant sinner was doomed to failure, so Hunt's pictorial attempt at a conversionist narrative capable of reconciling all the contradictions in play could not be achieved. Hunt's Scapegoat embodies both his belief that Judaism is a failed religion, one that has been supplanted in history, and his perception of a Judaism still alive and kicking. His labors on The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple had been facilitated by a zealous Canadian named Warder Cressen, who had left wife and family to preach the Gospel to the Jews, but as Hunt noted sardonically, Cressen had not been "sufficiently fortified in his original Christian faith in his task [and] in a few months became a proselyte to Judaism."(FN115)
Hunt eventually could boast that the world learned to sanction his "innovating spirit," and that the "mouthpieces of tradition ... make capital out of 'The Scapegoat,' and other pictures of the time, acknowledging their excellence."(FN116) This success may correspond to the fact that the Christian church had always generated an image of unrepentant Jews so bestial that their scapegoating has been a matter of course. It is perhaps not too much to claim that the spiritual negation of Jewish existence implied in the missions to the Jews of Palestine and elsewhere helped prepare the ground for the Holocaust--ironically, a term that once referred to a burnt offering. As Hunt showed in the major pictures he painted in the Holy Land, Christianity perceived Jewish worship as fossilized, belonging to the past, while Christian worship was a New Dispensation belonging to the present. The absorption of Judaism into the church was seen to be inevitable and an aid to uniting the disparate and fractious Christian sects. Even after the Holocaust and the founding of the state of Israel, this outlook persists and, one may hazard, is even more fraught with contradiction than in Hunt's time.(FN117)
As for Hunt, he at least, while working out his salvation through Christ, allowed himself to be challenged by the Jewish alternative of going it alone. His opportunity occurred during a moment when England's strategic agenda invested the Jews with a political potential, when they could appear on the scene as both agents of evangelical expectations and British imperial designs. The goat embodies the Jewish roots of Christianity and establishes the status of the daughter religion, but the dying goat's station in the wilderness reinforces the sense of Jewish superannuation and Christianity's legitimate inheritance of the mantle of biblical Israel. The goat in its isolation is the Torah superseded, declaring that Judaism's only value was to prepare the way for Christianity. In the end, Hunt preached only to the converted--in other words, to an audience that still supported the British Law of Jewish Disabilities for the aliens in their midst while idealizing their biblical ancestors as model Christians. Thus, in its own way, the miserable sin-laden goat ensured Hunt's redemption by serving the Victorian imperialist vision.
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