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A young woman offering one of her paintings to a dealer: she looks down in resignation as the dealer assesses the painting with a condescending expression. Photograph by Cundall Downes, 1862, after E.M. Osborn, 1857.

  • Osborn, Emily Mary, 1828-1925.
Oct. 1st 1862
  • Pictures

About this work


"'Nameless and friendless' focuses on the predicament of the single woman in the modern metropolis by offering a female version of the traditional 'Choice of Hercules' theme. The picture shows an orphaned female artist (as suggested by her black dress), accompanied by a boy, presumably her brother, diffidently offering one of her paintings to a dealer whose disdainful expression suggests rejection. An assistant looks down cursorily at her canvas from his position on a ladder, while the woman is eyed up from behind by two rakish men otherwise engaged in examining a hand-coloured print of a ballerina the bare legs of whom suggest other choices facing the impoverished and desperate young woman. Isolated in the centre of the composition between leering and contemptuous glances, the woman's vulnerability is accentuated by her downward gaze and fingers nervously pulling a hoop of string. The mud-splattered crepe of her skirt, her dripping umbrella and protective cape hint at the distance she has travelled and the conditions she has endured to brave the encounter"--Smith, loc. cit.


[London] (168 New Bond Street) : Published by Cundall Downes & Co., Oct. 1st 1862.

Physical description

1 photograph : photoprint, albumen, arched corners at top ; sheet 26.3 x 34.4 cm + mount printed with lettering in lithography


Nameless and friendless. The rich man's wealth is his strong city, the destruction of the poor is their poverty. Proverbs, 10 c 15 v.

References note

Alison Smith, 'Emily Mary Osborn Nameless and friendless', Tate online catalogue, October 2015


Wellcome Library no. 2922539i

Reproduction note

After a painting sold by the artist for £250 to Lady Chetwynd, and subsequently in the collections of Sir David Montagu Douglas Scott and Tate Britain


  • English

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