This is the first of a set of three modern-life pictures on the theme of the fallen woman. The other two are also in the Tate collection and available as custom prints.
The theme of the triptych is the discovery of a woman’s infidelity and its consequences. In this first scene the wife lies at her husband’s feet, while he sits grimly at the table and their children play cards in the background. The painting is full of symbolism: the falling cards, the halved apple and the paintings of ‘the fall’ of Adam and Eve and a shipwreck called ‘Abandoned’ by Clarkson Stanfield. The couple’s individual portraits hang beneath the appropriate images.
Augustus Leopold Egg
Egg: Past and Present, No. 1
635 x 762 mm
Oil paint on canvas
Date of work
Born in 1816 to the son of a London gunsmith, Egg enrolled in Henry Sass’s Academy around 1834 and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1836. Egg’s earliest pictures included portraits, costume pieces, subjects from Shakespeare and others. A few of his early pictures were popular among critics but in general his early works were criticised.
Over the years Egg established himself and even began to patronise younger artists and the Pre-Raphaelites. Egg’s famous triptych, exhibited in the Academy in 1858, and now known as Past and Present
demonstrated Egg’s concern with moralising serial narrative and with contemporary social issues. He frequently travelled to the south of England and to the Mediterranean for his asthma, to which he ultimately succumbed in 1863.