Collection Online
The mitherless bairn
oil on wood panel
63.2 × 90.0 cm
Place/s of Execution
London, England
inscribed in brown paint l.r.: Faed. 1855 / London
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1886
© Public Domain
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
19th Century European Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

Exhibited Royal Academy, London, 1855, no. 141; purchased from the artist by Henry Wallis (dealer), London, 1855; collection of Calvert Toulmin (1815–86), Bayswater, London, by 1871–86; included in the sale Christie's, London, 26 June 1886, no. 45; from where purchased by Agnew's (dealer), London, 1886, stock no. 4119; from where purchased, on the advice of Alfred Taddy Thompson, for the NGV, 29 June 1886.


Foundlings have long occupied a different position to the illegitimate child – like Moses – believed to have a potentially unique parentage and destiny which merited their protection. The Mitherless bairn features a ‘foundling’ who begged entry to the home of a large impoverished family which, despite its tatters, displays all the hallmarks of virtue. Faed was well aware of the potential of child subjects to convey powerful ideas, famously exhorting fellow artists to ‘paint the gutter children rather than Helen of Troy, Agamemnon or Achilles’.


This classical revival frame has lost the ornament of the leading edge which has been replaced with a flat timber section, bevelled on either side and overpainted with gold paint.

Unknown - 19th century
99 x 126 x 12 cm