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Past and Present, No. 1

Image credit: Tate

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This is the first of a set of three modern-life pictures on the theme of the fallen woman. The other two (N032279 and N03280) are also in the Tate collection. They are typical of the social moralist pictures that were popular in Victorian art. The theme of the triptych is the discovery of the woman's infidelity and its consequences. In this first scene the wife lies prostrate at her husband's feet, while he sits grimly at the table and their children (the older girl modelled by William Frith's daughter) play cards in the background. The husband is holding a letter, evidence of his wife's adultery, and simultaneously crushes a miniature of her lover under his foot. The setting is an ordinary middle-class drawing room, but closer observation reveals that the room is full of symbols.

Tate Britain

London

Title

Past and Present, No. 1

Date

1858

Medium

Oil on canvas

Measurements

H 63.5 x W 76.2 cm

Accession number

N03278

Acquisition method

Presented by Sir Alec and Lady Martin in memory of their daughter Nora 1918

Work type

Painting

Inscription description

date inscribed

Tate Britain

Millbank, London, Greater London SW1P 4RG England

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