This is the second of a set of three modern-life pictures on the theme of a fallen woman. The other two are also in the Tate collection and are available as custom prints. The paintings are typical of the social moralist pictures that were popular in Victorian art.
The theme of the triptych is the discovery of the woman’s infidelity and its consequences. In the first scene the family are still together, and the husband has just learned of his wife’s adultery. The second scene is a dimly-lit garret, five years later. The room is sparsely furnished and the few decorations include two portraits of the absent mother and father. The father has recently died and the mother has been driven out of her home, a fallen woman. The two orphaned girls comfort each other, the elder gazing sadly out the window.
Augustus Leopold Egg
Egg: Past and Present, No. 2
635 x 762 mm
Oil paint on canvas
Date of work
Presented by Sir Alec and Lady Martin in memory of their daughter Nora 1918
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.