Richard Redgrave

The Sempstress

1846

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On display at Tate Britain

Artist
Richard Redgrave 1804–1888
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Unconfirmed: 639 x 769 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by John Schaeffer 2014
Reference
T14166

Display caption

This painting is the only known version of the lost original which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1844 accompanied with lines from Thomas Hood’s popular poem The Song of the Shirt: ‘Oh! men with sisters dear/Oh! men with mothers and wives,/ It is not linen you’re wearing out,/But human creatures’ lives’. The success of the image was largely due to Redgrave’s presentation of the sempstress as a victim in need of salvation. The woman’s pleading expression and posture evoke standard representations of the penitent Magdalene in Old Master painting.

Gallery label, November 2016

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