A blind girl reads the Bible by touch to her illiterate family in the dark; one man is tempted to go out and enjoy drunken revels in the daylight; representing light and darkness of the understanding. Engraving by W. Ridgway, 1871, after G. Smith.

  • Smith, George, 1829-1901.
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About this work


"The Art Union of London have published, as their prize or gift to the guinea subscribers for 1871, a splendid engraving by Ridgeway, of the picture, by George Smith, illustrating the text "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." The scene is the interior of a rustic cottage. To the right-hand is a beautifuly-drawn figure of a blind girl reading a chapter from an embossed Bible to the assembled household. This figure stands out in bold relief, and the face is exceedingly expressive and spiritual. At her feet is seated a young and sturdy girl, gazing curiously at the fingers as they travel over the raised letters. To her left in the back ground are seated the aged grandparents, listening attentively to the words of joy and hope. Behind them, again, is a young matron, holding in her arms the infant she has just taken from a cradle, which occupies a front place in the picture, and beside which stand two pretty little girls—sisters, no doubt, of the baby—who have ceased playing with their toys to listen to what is going on. The young mother is looking reproachfully at her husband, a sturdy yeoman, in smock-frock, who is standing close to an open window, through which may be distinguished in progress the revels and orgies of the village wakes. The husband is in a state of indecision, and his face and the pose of his arms all betray irresolution. He is looking round at the figure of the blind girl, and apparently listening to the words she is reading, whilst a merry and "beery" friend has hold of his arm and is pointing to the door, and doing his best to persuade him to join the company outside. Behind the granddad's chair is another young woman, who leans eagerly across the table, and, catching the young husband by the sleeve, is imploringly urging him to prefer the light rather than the darkness. The grouping of the figures is most happy, and every minutiae [sic] is wrought out with the most scrupulous care. Praise is due both to the artist for his admirable conception, and to the engraver for the thorough conscientiousness with which he has performed his work. The plate is perhaps one of the most perfect works of art yet presented by the society. Mr R.C. Isaac, the honorary secretary for Liverpool, will receive the names of subscribers, and supply prospectuses for a few days longer." (Liverpool Mercury, loc. cit.)


[London] : [Art Union], [1871]

Physical description

1 print : engraving ; sheet 70.2 x 90.2 cm


Light and darkness ...

References note

Pall Mall Gazette, 18 March 1871 ("Art Union of London. Subscription, one guinea. Prizeholders select from the public exhibitions. Every subscriber has a chance of a valuable prize, and in addition receives an impression of a large and important plate, "Light and Darkness", engraved by Ridgway from the original picture by George Smith. The plate is now on delivery to subscribers. Subscription list closes on 31st inst. Lewis Pocock, Edm. E. Antrobus, Hon. Secs., No. 444 West Strand, March 1871.")
'Light and darkness', Liverpool Mercury, Saturday 1 April 1871 (extensive description)


Wellcome Collection 574955i

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