Little one who straight has come Down the heavenly stairs…

Little one who straight has come Down the heavenly stairs…, c.1887
Arthur Hughes (1832–1915)
Oil on Canvas
BORGM 01113
Image © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

Balcony  Pre-Raphaelite 

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Little One Who Straight Has Come Down the Heavenly Stairs…

The painting represents the birth of a child. The mother and father wait at the bottom of the stairs following the delivery of a baby from heaven by a group of angels. This painting was probably inspired by the birth of Hughes’ first grandchild, Dorothy, who modelled for the baby.

The title of the painting is a quote from the poem, The Christmas Child by George MacDonald (1824-1905). MacDonald was a celebrated poet, preacher, lecturer and the author of numerous novels and children’s stories. Hughes and MacDonald met in 1859 and became friends. Hughes went on to illustrate many of his works.

Hughes was not an official member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood but his friendship with them and their influence had a profound and lasting effect on him. His career flourished and he became popular as an illustrator of books and poetry. He produced many fine paintings based on ancient myths, Arthurian legends and the poetic works of Keats, Tennyson and Shakespeare.

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