Sir John Everett Millais, Bt

The Wise Virgins

published 1864

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Wood engraving on paper
Image: 140 x 108 mm
Presented by Gilbert Dalziel 1924

Display caption

In the parable of the virgins, told by Matthew, ten maidens wait expectantly for the bridegroom to arrive. They each have a lamp, but only five of them have enough oil to last the evening. The others have to go out to buy more oil and they miss the bridegroom’s arrival.

Millais frequently painted pictures showing young women outdoors. The girl lying in the foreground of this illustration resembles the figure in his painting Spring 1857. In Spring, however, the girl lies beneath a scythe, symbolising the passing of youth and beauty.

Gallery label, July 2008