Not currently on display at the V&A

Minding Baby

Oil Painting
1857 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The painting depicts what some Victorians called ‘the respectable poor’, who were seen to be hard-working and thrifty, making the best of their opportunities. The cottage and its contents are plain but in sound condition. The book is probably a copy of the Bible. The young woman’s knitting is not a hobby but a chance to save or earn money. The mothers of even the youngest children in such communities usually had to work to make sure that the family could afford food, so a relative or neighbour would look after (‘mind’) the baby for a while.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Painting by Alfred Provis of a woman minding a baby painted in the UK in 1857
Physical Description
Painting, of portrait proportions & in oil on canvas, of a cottage interior where a young woman is watching over a sleeping baby. The woman, who is barefooted, and whose clothes show signs of wear and mending, is dressed in a blue jacket over a drab-coloured bodice and short full red skirt. She is standing knitting, her ball of yarn pegged on a three-legged rustic stool, near the baby's cradle, which is of the traditional tapering European shape with rockers, a partly boxed-in head and knob finials. The cottage walls are of bare stone, and there are few other items in the room: a large book (probably a family Bible) and a ceramic jar on the window ledge; items stored on the wall (a string of onions, a pot lid, a pair of boots, a cooking pot and a lantern); and a tub, a kettle, and a pair of shoes on the floor. Up a low flight of steps (upon the bottom of which the young woman is partly standing) a kitchen grate with a lighted fire is visible through an open door.

The frame is a modern reproduction one (see Condition).
Dimensions
  • Canvas height: 34.3cm
  • Canvas width: 30.2cm
  • Frame height: 48.5cm
  • Frame width: 43.6cm
  • Frame depth: 4.1cm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • A Provis 1857 (Signature; date; Lower left corner; writing; oil paint)
  • A. Provis (Maker's identification; lower edge of frame; stamping; metal)
Object history
Bought at Phillips' Sale of Early British and Victorian Paintings, 20/06/1995 (Lot 125)
Production
Alfred Provis (fl 1843-86)
Subjects depicted
Summary
The painting depicts what some Victorians called ‘the respectable poor’, who were seen to be hard-working and thrifty, making the best of their opportunities. The cottage and its contents are plain but in sound condition. The book is probably a copy of the Bible. The young woman’s knitting is not a hobby but a chance to save or earn money. The mothers of even the youngest children in such communities usually had to work to make sure that the family could afford food, so a relative or neighbour would look after (‘mind’) the baby for a while.
Collection
Accession Number
B.102-1995

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record createdApril 19, 2000
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