A girl reads to a convalescent while a nurse brings in the patient's medicine. Watercolour by R.H. Giles.
- Giles, R. H. (Robert Humphrey), 1802-1881.
- [between 1800 and 1899]
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About this work
The sickroom of a chronically ill or convalescent young woman appears quite frequently in Victorian literature and fine arts. In part its popularity seems to reflect the domestic nursing arrangements for tuberculous patients: tuberculosis of bones or lungs was a wasting disease affecting young as well as old, causing weakness and therefore allowing no exertion. Victims of tuberculosis would, if they could afford it, be nursed at home, in some cases over decades. There were also people recovering from acute illness such as cholera, smallpox, scarlet fever or typhoid: many people would have been familiar with such a case. Family members developed nursing skills to take care of their relatives, and nursing was all the more important in the absence of efficacious pharmaceuticals. Keeping up the patient's spirits--for example by reading aloud, as in this painting--was an important part of the culture of nursing. The nearness of death brought religion to people's minds, and the white lily in the present picture attributes virginal innocence to the patient, and a suggestion that death would be undeserved. Watercolour fades easily: the unfaded state of this work is due to the fact that it has been kept in the dark for most of its history
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