The Royal Acdemy Exhibition, 1875
Here, at least, is one picture meant to teach; nor failing of its purpose, if we read it rightly. Very beautiful it might have been―and is, in no mean measure; but as years pass by, the artist concedes to himself, more and more, the privilege which none but the feeble should seek, of substituting the sublimity of mystery for that of absolute majesty of form. The relation between this grey and soft cloud of visionary power, and the perfectly substantial, bright, and near presence of the saints, angels, or Deities of early Christian art, involves questions of too subtle interest to be followed here; but in the essential force of it, belongs to the inevitable expression, in each period, of the character of its own faith. The Christ of the thirteenth century was vividly present to its thoughts, and dominant over its acts, as a God manifest in the flesh, well pleased in the people to whom He came; while ours is either forgotten, or seen, by those who yet trust in Him, only as a mourning and departing Ghost.
(1)[This picture, under its other title "The Spirit of Christianity," is among thosepresented by Watts to the nation. It now hangs in the Tate Gallery, No. 1637.]