The Passover in the Holy Family by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The Passover in the Holy Family is the perfect example of a text being registered onto a painting. The straightforward language of the text allows us to visualize the components of the painting without laying eyes upon it at first. Hence, our goal is to showcase what the painting might be saying through images written as text in the poem, and what the text is saying through words depicted as images in the painting.
The author follows a very classical pattern and an old literary format to reflect this episode from the Bible. Upon inspecting the painting, we get a somehow familiar feeling, the reason for it being the old episode and the old book it derived from. Rossetti uses techniques to illustrate the age of these events perfectly. Henceforth, we can say that the painter’s use of vivid colors, obvious drafting, and inexact details give the painting an old and a worn appearance. The author uses a third person perspective in the poem. The proof for it can be found in line thirteen by the use of the pronoun “'He”, including the tone of the poem too. This tone is used as in the ways of the Bible; we are being told a tale through words and letters as the readers of the poem, this leaves us only as the listeners. The same applies to the painting too, we are able to perceive only what the painter wants us to perceive. Correspondingly, although the painting includes symbolism, it is straightforward in terms of its contents. The relation is simple between the poem and the painting as they share the same subject, for they both clearly show that the Holy Family is making its preparations for the Passover holiday. Mary gathers the bitter herbs, while Zachary marks the door with the lamb blood held by Christ as the way it is decreed in the Old Testament. John the Baptist ties Jesus’ shoes while all these other characters revolve around Jesus.
The opening lines of the poem provides an explicit connotation of Christ’s self-sacrifice. It is clear that besides the celebration of Passover, the incidents of the Old Testament are also touched upon in the poem. “Here meet together the prefiguring day” alludes to show the Jews being guided out of Egypt by Moses, and “the day prefigured” intends to symbolize Christ’s leading of humanity from sin to redemption through his death and rebirth. The line “the slain lamb confront the Lamb to slay” underlines the importance of salvation in terms of the unification of the Old Law and the New Law. The depicted “Holy family” does as God commands. The bowl is held by Jesus, with Lambs blood in it which is made available to Zachary to keep the Angel of Death away from their home. Simultaneously, it also symbolizes that Jesus, through his sacrifice, saves humankind from imminent death. The blood held by Jesus, and the blood positioned above him touches the subject of his Crucifixion, and the peace and salvation that comes with it. The poem comes to an end swiftly as Mary collects the “bitter herbs”, which as we know symbolizes the pain Jews had to endure in the ritual, however, under these circumstances the herbs symbolize not only the pain Jews had to go through, but the pain and suffering of Mary and Christ both.