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Oil painting - Minding Baby

Minding Baby

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    United Kingdom (made)

  • Date:

    1857 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Provis, Alfred (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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.

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).

Place of Origin

United Kingdom (made)


1857 (made)


Provis, Alfred (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

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


Height: 34.3 cm canvas, Width: 30.2 cm canvas, Height: 48.5 cm frame, Width: 43.6 cm frame, Depth: 4.1 cm frame

Object history note

Bought at Phillips' Sale of Early British and Victorian Paintings, 20/06/1995 (Lot 125)

Descriptive line

Painting by Alfred Provis of a woman minding a baby painted in the UK in 1857

Production Note

Alfred Provis (fl 1843-86)


Canvas; Oil paint



Subjects depicted

Infants; Childcare; Women


Children & Childhood; Paintings


Museum of Childhood

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