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Museum of Oxford Digital Exhibitions

Outsider Art


'Two Acolytes Censing: Pentecost' by Simeon Solomon (WA1957.83)
© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

A Jewish man whose career would be destroyed by his arrests for attempted sodomy in the early 1870s, Simeon Solomon seems an unlikely figure to be painting this scene of two acolytes attending to the altar in an elaborate setting of Catholic worship. Yet in truth it is not untypical of his work which often focused on similar scenes of young men of religious practice, and also tells us something about three other, interlinked aspects of the world in which he worked. The first was the medieval revivalism associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: a group of artists who sought to evoke the ethos and aesthetics of the Middle Ages. The second was the revival of ritual that was associated with the Oxford Movement.  Both developments were often linked by their critics with illicit sexuality. For some this was undoubtedly true – and certainly for Solomon himself.