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A child sleeps while her parents are at work in the woods beyond. Such a scene is a development of the genre paintings of Wilkie and Mulready, who had been pre-eminent in establishing the Victorian taste for depictions of everyday life. The Pre-Raphaelite virtue of truth to nature is thoroughly honoured in this picture, where the various elements are painstakingly observed as if they were a still life. The soft autumn colours perhaps suggest ideas of mortality. However, the child is in no immediate danger, watched over by a squirrel and a robin. Hughes very probably used his own daughter as the model for the sleeping girl.

September 2004