William Holman Hunt

British, b.1827, d.1910

The Desolation Of Egypt (The Sphinx)

  • 1858
  • Etching
  • 270 x 365mm
  • 80/31

William Holman Hunt was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. Seeking accuracy and detail, he spent two years from 1854 in the Holy Land, living in Jerusalem and painting some of his best-known works on biblical themes and the life of Christ. He also visited Egypt, Syria, Constantinople and the Crimea before returning to England.

(Out of Time, 23 September 2023 – 28 April 2024)

Compare British Museum Registration number1865,0114.943

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • William Holman Hunt first had the idea for this image in 1854 when he was at Gizeh, in Egypt, where the Sphinx and some of the best-known pyramids are sited. The work has Romantic elements in its use of dark sombre tones and an image from the mysterious ancient culture of Egypt. Originally The Desolation of Egypt was etched as a pendant print (supplementary image) to a work called Abundance in Egypt and Hunt called it Afterglow in Egypt and the Sphinx. He divided the images and reworked this one, adding night effects, in 1858. Born in London, Hunt studied at the Royal Academy Schools and there met John Everett Millais (1829 -1896). With Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 -1882) and others, they formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848/1849. They aimed for complete authenticity. Searching for the exact historical and archaeological backgrounds for his paintings, Hunt went to the Holy Land and the Middle East. Hunt exhibited with the Royal Academy. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1905.

    (Label date unknown)