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An inscription on the original backing of this painting describes the occasion shown here: ‘The painting represents an episode in Millais’s own life when he was sent for by people unknown to him, but who knew him to be a young artist, to draw a portrait of a girl in her coffin before her burial. The scene moved him so much that when he got home he made this sketch showing himself being asked to draw the girl’s portrait.’The morbidity of this subject can be compared with Millais’s Ophelia also on display in this gallery.

July 2007