Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

  • Drawing
    Edward Killingworth Johnson, born 1825 - died 1896
  • Enlarge image


  • Place of origin:

    Britain (painted)

  • Date:

    1877 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Edward Killingworth Johnson, born 1825 - died 1896 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Water-colour and gouache on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr James Laver CBE

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case PD, shelf 138

Object Type
Paintings with narrative subjects were very popular with the Victorian public. The majority preferred sentimental themes, especially those that showed pathos.

Subjects Depicted
In the second half of the 19th century Queen Victoria (reigned 1837-1901) was the dominant popular image of widowhood after the death of her husband, Prince Albert (1819-1861). Indeed the Victorians created a cult of mourning, and the rules it produced placed restrictions on women in particular. A properly observed widowhood involved a prolonged absence from social events and activities. Rules on dress meant that all colour and ornament should be avoided until a proper (and long) interval had elapsed. In this painting the wedding dress is a symbol of the widow's recent loss. It also represents the youthful pleasures and future happiness that were now denied to her.

Edward Killingworth Johnson (1825-1896) was a self-taught painter and specialised in contemporary scenes of everyday life. This work, probably his masterpiece, conveys a genuine pathos and arouses sympathy for the plight of the young widow. This painting was given to the Museum's collection by James Laver (1899-1975), who was the Keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings and the author of many books, particularly of the history of costume.

Physical description

Drawing depicting a young woman wearing a black dress and holding her wedding dress. The woman is shown full-length, turned to the left and looking down mournfully. In the left background is a side table with a box and flowers and a picture on the wall.

Place of Origin

Britain (painted)


1877 (painted)


Edward Killingworth Johnson, born 1825 - died 1896 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Water-colour and gouache on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'E. K. Johnson 1877.'
Signed and dated


Height: 55.9 cm, Width: 35.2 cm

Descriptive line

Drawing by Edward Killingworth Johnson depicting a young widow holding her wedding dress. Water-colour and gouache, 1877.

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

Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1959 . London: HMSO, 1964.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Victorian painters often favoured subjects from everyday life. This painting shows a young widow in a severe black dress dictated by the rules of mourning. She holds her wedding dress in her hands and gazes at it sadly. The sentimental nature of the scene would have appealed strongly to a Victorian audience, which had an obsessive interest in death. [27/03/2003]


Water-colour; Gouache



Subjects depicted

Furniture; Wedding dress


Marriage; Death; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.