The Governess

Oil Painting
1844 (painted), 1845 (exhibited)
The Governess thumbnail 1
The Governess thumbnail 2
+1
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Paintings, Room 82, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil painting by Richard Redgrave entitled 'The Governess'. Great Britain, 1844.
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.
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 71.1cm
  • Estimate width: 91.5cm
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
'Richd Redgrave/1844' (Signed and dated by the artist, lower right)
Credit line
Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857
Object history
Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857
Subjects depicted
Summary
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.
Bibliographic References
  • 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
Collection
Accession Number
FA.168[O]

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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