Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Oil painting - The Governess
  • The Governess
    Redgrave, Richard CB, RA, ARA, born 1804 - died 1888
  • Enlarge image

The Governess

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (painted)

  • Date:

    1844 (painted)
    1845 (exhibited)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Redgrave, Richard CB, RA, ARA, born 1804 - died 1888 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, Room 82, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries, case WEST WALL

This picture was exhibited with the quotation: 'She sees no kind domestic visage here'. The position of governess was one of the few professions open to middle-class women of modest means, but it was often a lonely and difficult life because the social status of a governess was ambiguous. She was not a servant in the usual sense but nor was she on equal terms with the family who employed her. Here, the young woman holds a letter which has obviously stirred memories of home. It may be news of a death in her family - letters or cards with black borders were used to announce deaths. Redgrave had a personal interest in representing the life of a governess: his sister Jane was a governess and died young.

Redgrave painted an earlier version of this subject, The Poor Teacher, in 1843. this version was painted the following year, and altered at the request of the buyer, John Sheepshanks. In order to make the picture more cheerful, Redgrave added the scene of children (the governess's pupils) playing in the sunlit garden.

Physical description

A pale lady is seated alone in a schoolroom holding a black-edged letter, obviously downcast and presumably musing sadly about home and family, as suggested by 'Home, sweet Home', the music on the music stand. Three pupils play happily in a sunlit background.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (painted)


1844 (painted)
1845 (exhibited)


Redgrave, Richard CB, RA, ARA, born 1804 - died 1888 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'Richd Redgrave/1844'
Signed and dated by the artist, lower right


Height: 71.1 cm estimate, Width: 91.5 cm estimate

Object history note

Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

Descriptive line

Oil painting by Richard Redgrave entitled 'The Governess'. Great Britain, 1844.

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

Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, pp. 237-40
100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum. London: V&A, 1985, p.142


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Piano; Governess


Paintings; Interiors


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.