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This is a smaller version of a painting which Thomas Gainsborough created in 1787, towards the end of his life. This version is attributed to Gainsborough’s nephew and studio assistant Gainsborough Dupont.

Subjects like this were meant to inspire compassion among people of Sensibility, who may in truth have been far removed from the realities of rural poverty. In fact, the original painting belonged to a nobleman, Lord Porchester.

Are such sentimental images of poverty exploitative, or do they present a noble, and sometimes even challenging, vision of the countryside?

September 2004