Collection Online
In memory of the lowly

In memory of the lowly
(À la mémoire des humbles)

oil on canvas
117.2 × 92.0 cm
inscribed in black paint l.r. Fernand Sabatté / 1899
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Bequest of Miss M. Y. E. Tate, 1977
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
Not on display

Acquired from the artist by the Tate family, Rye, Suffolk, probably early 20th century[1]; by descent to Miss Marion Yule Elford Tate (1887–1977), Rye, Suffolk, before 1977; bequeathed to the NGV, 1977.


[1] James Charles Tate (1853–1938), the patriarch of this family and a retired tobacco farmer, probably acquired this painting in the early 20th century. He and his wife Marion Morrison Tate (1852–1938) had three children, the eldest of which was Marion Yule Elford Tate (1887–1977). She outlived her siblings Evelyn Mary Elford Tate (1888–1974) and James Elford Tate (1892–1944). The family, along with James Charles Tate’s sister Georgina Sarah Tate (1857–1950) are buried together in Rye Cemetery, Suffolk.

Explication des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture, graveur et lithographie…exposes a la Galerie des Machines, Paris, 1 May 1899, no. 1743, as À la mémoire des humbles, lent by the artist; unknown exhibition, Rouen, Paris (packing label on reverse), lent by the artist

A former pupil of Gustave Moreau, Fernand Sabatté first exhibited In memory of the lowly in Paris in 1899. The painting depicts a coffin being carried away from a side chapel leaving behind only the two trestles on which it has rested, two snuffed- out candles and two small garden flowers which have fallen to the ground. This small group forms the only monument to a life which has passed.


The maker is identified by a stencil, centre top reverse, much of which is illegible but which clearly identifies MARCHAND, DUREUR and part of the address 3 RUE NEUVE … PARIS. Though in one sense simple in form, the frame makes repeated use of strong linear elements in the design to give a broad formality to the picture and it is more complex in conception than it appears.

3 Rue Neuve, Paris

The basic profile of the frame is made from timber but finished in such a way as to create the sense of a solid block. In fact, the wooden section must be made from laminated boards. The structure is mitred at the corners, which are all open on the inner edge as a consequence of the timber shrinking across the grain. The working edge is made from the addition of an unusually thin strip of timber to the reverse. Each corner is re-enforced from the reverse with a substantial breadth of timber and a spline. The form of the frame has been refined with a thick layer of gesso. The gesso has been re-profiled, with a scraper, to build a crisp edge to the repeated steps and curves that articulate the shape. The original surface has been lost under reworking, leaving little or no indication of the intended finish. The current surface is gold leaf.


The form of the frame is largely intact, though the surface has been re-worked. The brittle edges that have been built from profiling the thick gesso layer have been prone to fracture and loss.

150.0 x 124.5 x 14.0 cm; sight 114 x 88.5 cm