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Oil painting - Choosing the Wedding Gown
  • Choosing the Wedding Gown
    Mulready, William RA, born 1786 - died 1863
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Choosing the Wedding Gown

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1845 (made)
    1846 (exhibited)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mulready, William RA, born 1786 - died 1863 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case WW

Object Type
Oil paintings such as this with subjects taken from popular literature steadily replaced commissions for history paintings in the early 19th century. The public and most collectors of modern works started to prefer lighter and sometimes more sentimental themes.

Subjects Depicted
The subject is taken from the opening sentences of Oliver Goldsmith's novel 'The Vicar of Wakefield': 'I had scarce taken orders a year before I began to think seriously of matrimony, and chose my wife, as she did her wedding gown, not for a fine glossy surface, but for such qualities as would wear well.' Mulready had already provided a frontispiece for an 1843 edition of the novel - the composition on which this painting is based. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1846 and was an immense success.

John Sheepshanks (1787-1863), the industrialist and collector, owned many paintings with subjects taken from well-known authors, such as Shakespeare, Chaucer and Molière. He particularly admired the work of the artist Mulready, so much so, that he bought 31 of his paintings, often at very high prices.

Physical description

Oil on panel depicting a group portrait scene from Goldsmith's 'The Vicar of Wakefield'. The bride-to-be is carefully inspecting the fabric from a roll on a counter, whilst the merchant on the other side attempts to persuade her of its quality.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1845 (made)
1846 (exhibited)


Mulready, William RA, born 1786 - died 1863 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

oil on panel


Height: 52.9 cm, Width: 44.7 cm, Height: 72 cm frame, Width: 64 cm frame, Depth: 7 cm frame

Object history note

Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857. By William Mulready RA (born in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, 1786, died in London, 1863)

Exhibited at the Royal Academy 1846

Descriptive line

Oil painting by William Mulready entitled 'Choosing the Wedding Gown' (Goldsmith, 'The Vicar of Wakefield', Chapter 1). Great Britain, 1845.

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

Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, pp. 205-206

Labels and date

British Galleries:
John Sheepshanks, the industrialist and collector, supported the artist Mulready and is said to have paid the large sum of £1050 for this painting which shows a scene from a popular novel of the time. This is the kind of subject that would have been understood by a wider audience than more traditional historic subjects. [27/03/2003]


Oil paint; Panel


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Marriage; Wedding; Inspection; Wedding dresses; Fabric


British Galleries; Paintings; Marriage; Shopping


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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