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A young nun digging a grave while another nun sits nearby. Process print after J.E. Millais, 1858-1859.

Millais, John Everett, 1829-1896.

About this work


In 1853 the painter John Everett Millais joined the art critic John Ruskin and Ruskin's wife Effie on a disastrous holiday in Scotland. Millais and Effie fell in love, Effie subsequently obtained an annulment of her marriage, and in 1855 she and Millais were married. This was a great scandal. To get away from the London gossip, the Millais went to live in Perthshire, near her parents' home, and it was there that Millais painted several large and melancholy paintings, including one of this composition, which he entitled "The Vale of Rest: where the weary find repose". Apart from its pessimism -- the weary find repose only in the grave, not in life -- many people must have been shocked by the sight of a young woman, and a member of a religious order at that, rolling up her sleeves to use a pickaxe and spade to dig a grave. The fact that one nun digs the grave unaware of the onlooker, while the other, supposedly more pious, sits there wrapped up in prayer while consciously posing for the painter, makes the painting even more disturbing. Ruskin said it had "the nobility of horror", while the critic M.H. Spielmann said "This picture I have always felt to be one of the greatest and most impressive ever painted in England [i.e. Scotland]; one in which the sentiment is not mawkish, nor the tragedy melodramatic -- a picture to look at with hushed voice and bowed head". The painting was bought by Sir Henry Tate, and this photogravure is one of many prints that helped to make the painting extremely well-known


The vale of rest. By Sir J.E. Millais, Bart., P.R.A. Tate Collection


[Place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified]

Physical description

1 print : process print ; image 15 x 25.5 cm


Wellcome Library no. 44433i

Reproduction note

After the painting "The vale of rest: Where the weary find repose" by J.E. Millais, 1858-1859


  • English


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