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Oil painting - The Seamstress
  • The Seamstress
    Baugniet, Charles, born 1814 - died 1886
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The Seamstress

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    London (painted)

  • Date:

    1858 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Baugniet, Charles, born 1814 - died 1886 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Fashion, Room 40, case CA5

Charles Baugniet (1814-1886) studied at the Brussels academy and later with Joseph Paelinck (1781-1839). After establishing himself as one of the leading portrait painters, Baugniet moved to London where his career continued to flourish. His works are included in the collections of British Museum (London), the Cabinet des Estampes (Paris) and the Brussels Museum.

This painting showing a seamstress making a wedding in a bourgeois interior is a good example of Baugniet's large output of female portraits 'en situation'. The artist produced many full-length portraits of women set in their own bourgeois domestic interior and involved in a day-to-day activity such as writing a letter, receiving visitors, returning from the ball…

Physical description

A seamstress working at the white satin dress in a domestic interior: she has a Turkish carpet under her feet, a basket with ribbons and clothes behind her while on the table nearby is a vase with flowers.

Place of Origin

London (painted)


1858 (painted)


Baugniet, Charles, born 1814 - died 1886 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on panel

Marks and inscriptions

'C. Baugniet 1858'
Signed and dated by the artist, lower left


Height: 52.1 cm estimate, Width: 39.3 cm estimate

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, 1868
Ref : Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860. Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990. p.xix.

'Chauncy Hare Townshend (1798-1868) was born into a wealthy family, only son of Henry Hare Townsend of Busbridge Hall, Godalming, Surrey. Educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA 1821). Succeeded to the family estates 1827, when he added 'h' to the Townsend name. He had taken holy orders, but while he always referred to himself as 'Rev.' on the title pages of his books, he never practised his vocation... . Very much a dilettante in the eighteenth-century sense, he moved in the highest social and literary circles; a great friend of Charles Dickens (he was the dedicatee of Great Expectations) with whom he shared a fascination of mesmerism... Bulwer Lytton described his life's 'Beau-deal of happiness' as 'elegant rest, travel, lots of money - and he is always ill and melancholy'. Of the many watercolours and British and continental oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A, the majority are landscapes. He is the first identifiable British collector of early photographs apart from the Prince Consort, particularly landscape photography, and also collected gems and geological specimens.'

Historical significance: This painting is a typical example of Baugniet large output of female portraits 'en situation'. He used to represent them in their domestic interior involved in their daily occupations. He however had a predilection for the bourgeois scenes such as The Letter sold Christie's London, 11 May 1990, lot 62, in which an elegant lady is sealing a letter in a richly decorated interior, or The Bride, sold Christie's, New York, 14 Feb. 1996, lot 98, showing a bride to be in prayer in her bedroom.
The seamstress follows to the same compositional idea, not without recalling a certain Victorian imagery. Set in a bourgeois interior, the lady is making a dress in a delicate white satin that probably is a wedding dress as the roses' bouquet on the table and the red colour of the tablecloth are traditional symbols for love and virginity. This picture is furthermore a good example of how Baugniet responded to the British market which was in demand for such pictures. He was in London by 1843 and this painting, dated 1858, was probably made for a British audience.

Historical context note

The artistic relationship between the Northern and the Southern Netherlands, that is modern-day Holland and Belgium, were very strong during the 19th century especially after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Netherlands in 1815. The Prix de Rome was awarded equally to Antwerp and Amsterdam artists, even after the independence of Belgium in 1830. The majority of Belgian art of the first half of the 19th century, including history painting, genre scenes, landscape and portrait paintings, articulated a new national pride which nevertheless drew upon French academic taste. Such artists as Jean-Bernard Duvivier (1762-1837), Henry Leys (1815-1869) and Karel Verlat (1824-1890) made extensive use of these renewed genres in their oeuvre. Belgian artists also travelled a great deal, not only for training purposes in the tradition of their artistic predecessors but for the sake of discovering new surroundings and making new acquaintances: Paris was the favourite destination. While Italy also remained a popular destination, the majority of these artists tended to move on to other areas of interest, such as Morocco, less for their artistic traditions, and more for their exotic aspects.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'The Seamstress', Charles Baugniet, 1858

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

C.M. Kauffmann, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 3, cat. no. 9.


Oil paint; Panel


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Wedding dress; Interior; Sewers (textile workers); Lady; Genre




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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