Christ in the House of His Parents, John Everett Millais (English), 1849-50, oil on canvas, 86.4 cm × 139.7 cm, Tate Britain, London
You behold the interior of a carpenter’s shop. In the foreground of that carpenter’s shop is a hideous, wry necked, blubbering, red-headed boy, in a bed-gown; who appears to have received a poke in the hand, from the stick of another boy with whom he has been playing in an adjacent gutter, and to be holding it up for the contemplation of a kneeling woman, so horrible in her ugliness, that (supposing it were possible for any human creature to exist for a moment with that dislocated throat) she would stand out from the rest of the company as a Monster, in the vilest cabaret in France, or the lowest ginshop in England. Two almost naked carpenters, master and journeyman, worthy companions of this agreeable female, are working at their trade; a boy, with some small flavour of humanity in him, is entering with a vessel of water; and nobody is paying any attention to a snuffy old woman who seems to have mistaken the shop for the tobacconist’s next door, and to be hopelessly waiting at the counter to be served with half an ounce of her favourite mixture. Wherever it is possible to express ugliness of feature, limb, or attitude, you have it expressed. Such men as carpenters might be undressed in any hospital where dirty drunkards, in a high state of varicose veins, are received. Their very toes have walked out of St. Giles’s. - Charles Dickens, Household Words, vol. 1, no. 12, 15 June 1850
Charles Dickens really disliked the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and this particular work by PRB founder John Everett Millais. A lot of people absolutely despised the PRB. You might think that Dickens, with his concern for the common people might champion a group that painted common people in religious and literary roles, but no, the ideal human form held sway for Dickens and numerous other critics of the time. The PRB sought to re-establish the detail, color, light, and complex compositions of works by Quattrocento Italian artists, up to the early works of Raphael. They felt classicism had ruined their contemporaries, who labored to create vapid works from their ideals. The PRB painted a fair amount of religious art as well as scenes of classical mythology, but they also chose to draw on literary canons not typically depicted in art, specifically the British canon, including Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the King Arthur legends. They also confronted modern British life in works such as Ford Madox Brown’s Work of 1852. It would seem modern fantasy novel cover illustrations have their roots in the PRB as well.