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Stages of Cruelty
painting

Brown, Ford Madox
Europe, United Kingdom, England
1856-1890

1911.104

Oil paint
73.3 x 59.9 cm

More Details

Stages of Cruelty 1856/7-1890
Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893
Oil on canvas

The message of this painting seems all too clear;
little girls who treat their loyal pets badly
will grow up to be less than courteous
to their admirers.

The Victorians devoted whole books
to the symbolism of flowers.
Brown may have consulted one of these
when painting this picture.

The hapless suitor is confined by a lilac bush,
which could refer to first emotions of young love,
and in the foreground,
by the steadfastly clinging convolvulus,
perhaps refers to his dwindling hopes.

The child beats her dog with
a spray of love-lies-bleeding.

The combination of lush colouring
and unkind sentiment
make this an uneasy but thought-provoking work.