The Raising of Lazarus
Henry George Holiday (1839-1927)
Graphite, pen, black ink, and grey wash on paper.
325 x 180 mm (12 7/8 x 7 1/8 inches).
Signed lower right: "July 1885 Henry Holiday"
Inscribed upper left: "A. 12"; lower left: "memorial inscription"
Stained glass design for Grace Church, New York City; also used for St. Oswald Parish Church, Grasmere (United Kingdom).
Provenance: Bought together as Lot 341, A pair of stained glass window designs for The Raising of Lazarus, St Oswald Parish Church, Grasmere, Dreweatt-Bloomsbury, London 12th February, 2014.
See commentary below
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Commentary by Paul Crowther
The story of Christ's raising Lazarus from the dead is told in the New Testament Gospel of St. John 11:1−46. Lazarus has been in his tomb for four days.
41. Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. [King James Translation]
The left pane represents Lazarus and an unknown attendant and an apostle. The right pane has Jesus issuing his command, with Lazarus's sisters Mary (in the foreground) and Martha in the background.
The raising of Jairus's daughter is a less well known event but is recounted in three of the New Testament Gospels (Mark 5:21–43, Matthew 9:18–26, Luke 8:40–56). In Mark, Jairus, (the head of a synagogue) beseeches Christ for help with his gravely ill daughter. However, before Christ reaches the house, the girl is dead. The story then goes
38. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. 39. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. 40. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. 41. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. 42. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. [King James Translation]
The left panel shows Jairus beseeching Jesus for help, with two apostles standing by (Peter, James, and John, are mentioned as accompanying Jesus). The right panel shows Jesus touching the girl with Jairus, his wife, and (probably) St. Peter looking on.
The pictures were bought as designs for St Oswald's church in Grasmere—where William Wordsworth (1770–1850) and other members of the great poet's family are buried. (The Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner's important memorial to Wordsworth is also there.) There are two windows by Holiday in the church. One has a pair of panels with an angel in each, whilst the other consists of two panels representing the raising of Lazarus. However, the present studies have an ambiguous relation to these windows. The overall design for the figures in the Lazarus composition is basically the same (though there are some obvious differences between the window and the studies in terms of the visual embellishments around the edges, above and below). But there are at least three further and more significant differences at the design level itself. The figure attending to Lazarus is fully clothed in the window, but in the studies he is shown as wearing only a loin garment. In the adjoining panel, the half-kneeling Mary Magdalene in the foreground is wearing a green gown in the window, but a blue one in the study. And in the lower portion of the watercolour study there is an entire narrative—the raising of Jairus's daughter—that is not found in the St. Oswald's window.
However, there is another stained glass window designed by Holiday—for Grace Church in New York—that is consistent with all the main design features of the present studies. This window is a memorial to the three children of David and Adeline Stewart (Huntington). The present designs are clearly for Grace Church, with the Lazarus later re-used in modified form for the Grasmere commission. Indeed, Holiday himself discusses the Grace Church window (and includes a black and white image of The Raising of Lazarus section of it) in his book Stained Glass as an Art. He tells us that "the representation of the human figure has a value of its own, technically, among objects with stronger colours and more sharply defined light and shade" (138). The point is then illustrated through explicit reference to the Raising of Lazarus in Grace Church. "Here is a group in which an attendant is liberating Lazarus from his grave clothes, in response to the command 'Loose him, and let him go.' The attendant is represented with little clothing, that his swarthy skin may contrast with the paleness of the man who is newly risen from the grave'" (138).
When discussing Goodall, I emphasized the importance of geometric immanence as a basis for Ideal Beauty. This is also important for the present works. As Holiday himself notes above, the body has an intrinsic value that enables it to stand out even in competition with strong colours and emphatic tonal modelling. However, the relation between these factors is also of great importance. The visual conjunction between Lazarus and the attendant is a case in point, insofar as the foreshortened modelling of the figures is not static. The continuity of gestures between them, and the contrast between their skin colour and tones, evokes geometric structure as dynamic—as a feature that helps create changes of appearance, as well as defining spatial appearance per se.
Baldry, Lys. Henry Holiday. London: Walker's Galleries, 1930. [The Raising of Lazarus watercolour is reproduced in colour opposite p. 49.]
Crowther, Paul. Awakening Beauty: The Crowther-Oblak Collection of Victorian Art. Exhibition catalogue. Ljubljana: National Gallery of Slovenia; Galway: Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, 2014. No. 41.
Holiday, Henry. Stained Glass as an Art. London-New York: Macmillan, 1896.
Huntington, William R. The Staying-Powers of a Downtown Church. New York: Sherwood and Co., 1896. Available at external link [accessed 15/02/2014].
Last modified 8 December 2014