Homeward Bound was painted in 1869 and sent to England in the autumn of the following year to be exhibited at the Old Watercolour Society, as the artist's letter of 12 October to A.W. Hunt reveals: 'I have lately sent home a couple of water colour drawings and I wish to give them to be mounted and framed to a safe man.... [They] are one – a view in the interior of the Mosque Ar Sakhara here – the other a Moonlight at Sea.' Judith Bronkhurst has suggested that the picture was painted during Hunt's August 1869 voyage from Brindisi to Jaffa. This is confirmed by Stephen's review in the Athenaeum of 13 May 1871, 'The Pathless Waters ... a rapidly-made sketch of the sea and moonlight as apparent from the deck of a steamer, is ... remarkable for luminosity and richness of colour; though not nearly so complete, it is preferable to the former (Interior of the Mosque As Sakara) in respect of solidity. The moon and clouds about her face are very fine'. The Art-Journal commented: 'Holman Hunt again attempts to paint impossibilities. In "The Pathless Waters" (256), he strives to seize on a lovely phenomenon of sky and sea, familiar to all who have voyaged on the Mediterranean. The moon makes for herself a clear path through clouds which crown, or rather encircle, her head with a halo of iridescent light. The sea beneath shines as burnished silver. This poetic aspect of nature probably cannot be translated into a picture. We may commend then the attempt while we pardon the failure'.
Homeward Bound and Interior of the Mosque Ar Sakara (Sotheby's, Thornton Manor, Wirral, from the collection of Lord Leverhulme, 27 June 2001, lot 395) were bought by the portrait painter Rudolf Lehmann (1819-1905), to whom Hunt wrote on 10 March 1873: 'Thank you for your kind note which encloses the cheque for £204/15 ... You are more than prompt in paying me before the works are sent home: this however shall be very soon. I am delighted that you have got them. I feel satisfied to a high degree that I withdrew them from sale until now for so good a fate as this in store for them'. Hunt was friends with Rudolf Lehmann and his brother Frederick, a noted amateur violinist and partner in an engineering firm who was also a patron of Albert Moore and friend of Millais, Leighton and the writer William Wilkie Collins. Later in the nineteenth century Homeward Bound passed into the collection of the accountant Edward Frederick Quilter, son of the eminent stock-broker and art collector Sir William Cuthbert Quilter M.P. and brother of the composer Roger Quilter. Among the Victorian masterpieces in Cuthbert Quilter's collection were Rossetti's La Bella Mano, Burne-Jones' Green Summer, Mariamne by Waterhouse, Cymon and Iphigenia by Leighton, The Last Muster by Herkomer, Joan of Arc by Millais and, most relevantly, one of Holman Hunt's most famous paintings The Scapegoat.
Judith Bronkhurst has drawn comparison between Homeward Bound and Moonlight at Salerno of 1868 in the depiction of moonlight on the ocean, the former depicting; 'the full moon (indicated by bare paper) [that] illuminates the surrounding indigo sky and pale turquoise/green clouds, and casts a bright pinkish gleam on the sea in the middle distance. The horizontal banding in the left of the drawing is achieved with great economy of means – the moonlight areas are hints of ochre highlighting on bare paper.'
We are very grateful to Judith Bronkhurst for her kind assistance in cataloguing this picture.
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