Collection Online
A lullaby
oil on canvas
137.7 × 99.7 cm
inscribed in black paint l.l.: J. H. Lorimer 1889-
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1921
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 Scottish Academy, Glasgow, 1890, no. 250; sold by the artist to Mr and Mrs G. Simpson, Edinburgh, 1890[1]; their collection, Edinburgh, until 1921; with Dowell's (auction house), Edinburgh, February 1921; from where purchased, on the advice of Frank Rinder, for the Felton Bequest, 1921.

[1] The report recommending this purchase from Felton Bequest Adviser Frank Rinder quotes the artist stating this painting was sold in 1890.

Royal Scottish Academy, Glasgow, 1890, no. 250; Salon, Paris, 1892, no. 1107, as Berceuse[1]; Corporation of London Loan Exhibition, Guildhall, London, 1900, no. 100, lent by Mrs Simpson; Scottish National Exhibition, Edinburgh, 1908, no. 315, lent by Mrs Simpson; Twenty Years of British Art 1890–1910, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1910, no. 75, lent by Mrs G. Simpson; Exhibition of Pictures from the Southern States, Queensland Art Fund, Brisbane, 1930, no. 65; The First Fifty Years: Nineteenth Century British Art from the Gallery Archives, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1992; Hidden Treasures, David Jones Gallery, Sydney, 1992.

[1] See Exposition des Beaux-Arts Catalogue illustre de Peinture et Sculpture: Salon de 1882, edited by Ludovic Baschet, Paris, accessed At this Salon, Lorimer is said have received ‘third medal’. See De Soissons, S. C., ‘John Henry Lorimer and his art’ in The Artist: An Illustrated Monthly Record of Arts, Crafts and Industries, published 1 August 1899, p. 115, accessed It was previously recorded that this painting was again exhibited in the Salon of 1902, however a check of the catalogue revealed this to be incorrect.


This study of a nurse and her sleeping charge was painted in a tower of Lorimer’s home in Kellie Castle, Pittenween. It depicts his baby nephew, Thomas Chalmers, son of the Chief Justice of British Guiana and his minder, Joanna Herbert from Demerara. By 1889, the year in which this celebrated and widely exhibited painting was made, thinking on childcare had greatly modernised. The practice of swaddling was abandoned. Now able to move freely, babies no longer needed constant rocking to distract them from their discomfort. The new cult of fresh air meant that nurses were urged to keep windows open even in freezing weather.


Gilded direct to the oak without a bole layer, the surface of the frame on A Lullaby reflects Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts methods of gilding on wood.

Unknown - 19th century

Oak and gold leaf