The Return of the Dove to the Ark, painted in 1851 by Sir John Everett Millais, is a depiction of two of Noah’s daughters-in-law caring for a dove bearing an olive branch upon its return to the Ark. Millais aimed for an intense realism with this painting; he even attempted to repurchase it following its first exhibition at the Royal Academy. In his attempt to achieve perfect representation, Millais meticulously studied every detail – down to individual leaves and petals – on this oil canvas.
Millais’ attention to detail in The Return of the Dove has made it one of his most influential works. It was specifically noted by William Morris as having shaped much of his own style in founding the Arts and Crafts movement. The Roman Catholic Church also saw allegorical significance within The Return of the Dove; its symbolism represents a return to true faith or enlightenment.
While Sir John Everett Millais originally intended another painting titled The Dove’s First Flight as a companion piece for The Return of the Dove, that painting was never completed. Today, this celebrated artwork may be viewed at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum as part of their Thomas Combe collection.