This painting is a repetition, with variations, of an earlier work, 'Brother and Sister' which Mulready exhibited in 1837. In the 'Young Brother' a small boy, perched on the arm of his sister or mother, is about to have his ear playfully pinched by his elder brother. When the picture was exhibited in 1857 critics read the subject in this way. However, Mulready's title is ambiguous, for it could refer to the relationship between the woman and the child. The erotic tension which seems to exist betweem the youth and the girl suggests that the principle theme is in fact concerned with first love and courtship.
Gallery label, September 2004