Isaac and Ede Antique Prints
Ward Bigg Sailor Orphans

William Ward after W. R. Bigg

The Sailor's Orphans or The Young Ladies' Subscription

27 x 22.5 inches

A mezzotint, printed in colours and hand-finished, engraved by Ward after William Redmore Bigg RA; published in London in 1800.

What is crucial when analysing this sentimental Georgian scene is the positioning of the apostrophe. Coming, as it does, before the s in sailor's and in the absence of any male presence in the scene it rather suggests that all the children present belong to the one sailor who has now sadly died. On closer inspection, however, we see a very different story. To the left of the scene stands the widow with her prodigy whilst to the right we notice the comparative wealth of the lady who has entered the cottage door accompanied by a bevy of young ladies in bonnets. The simpering faces and slightly patronising gestures show us that this is a scene of benevolence from gentle folk to the poor. William Redmore Bigg, an artist of the Royal Academy, was the epitome of sentimental Georgian art and here we see it in all its fabulous abundance.

Such scenes highlight the fashion for depicting rural life in an idealised, often sanitised way, neatly packaged for the delicate sensibilities of an emerging middle class.


Back to Catalogue