The Awakening Conscience is a renowned painting by William Holman Hunt. It was painted in 1853 and depicts a woman rising from her position in the lap of a man and gazing out of a window. The painting reflects an ideal of Christian charity espoused by many Victorians, symbolizing salvation through a shaft of light in a darkened interior.
Hunt’s inspiration for “The Awakening Conscience” came from a verse in Proverbs. The painting explores contemporary issues of sin, guilt, and prostitution, addressing the common Victorian narrative of the fallen woman. This theme was part of bourgeois morality that sought to repress sexuality behind closed doors.
Furthermore, Hunt’s use of symbolism is noteworthy; he contrasts light with darkness to convey the message that salvation can be found even amid moral decay. Through this work, he highlights societal problems while reiterating the importance of religious values.