Sunday 16 August 2009

The Doubt: Can These Dry Bones Live?

I saw an incredibly interesting documentary earlier this year on the BBC, which explored aspects of Victorian consciousness through the art of the day. One of the works touched on was The Doubt: Can These Dry Bones Live? by Henry Alexander Bowler, painted in 1856, three years before the publication of The Origin of Species. It shows that the Victorian crisis of faith predates Darwin by some years.

As you can see, it depicts a woman leaning on a gravestone, staring at some bones which have come to the surface. The name on the gravestone is John Faithful. On top of the exposed skull a blue butterfly rests, a symbol of the resurrection. Is it there to offer the woman hope and comfort? Is there hope and comfort?


  1. Maybe its to reassure. The headstone belongs to John Faithful. The inscription reads I am the Resurrection and the Life. A nearby stone is engraved Resurgam.

    1. Yes, possibly. It's wonderfully ambiguous.