This is the third 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 theme of the triptych is the discovery of the woman’s infidelity and its consequences. In this third painting the moon occupies the same position in the sky, indicating that the scene is taking place at the same time. The children’s mother, now destitute, has taken refuge under one of the Adelphi arches, described by the Art Journal as ‘the lowest of all the profound deeps of human abandonment in this metropolis’. Under her shawl she shelters a young child, clearly the result of her adulterous affair, which is now over.
Augustus Leopold Egg
Egg: Past and Present, No. 3
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.