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Core Record

Title A Mother Giving Birth to a Baby
Alternative Title Birth Scene
Collection Wellcome Library
Artist Swedish School
Attributed to Desprez, Louis Jean (French painter, architect, printmaker, 1743-1804)
Previously attributed to Abildgaard, Nicolai Abraham (Danish painter, 1743-1809)
Date Earliest about 1700
Date Latest about 1800
Description The proud father watches as his wife is giving birth. On the right is a caricature of a midwife or wisewoman. The standing figure pouring water into a bowl may be a personification of Hygiene, as a similar figure appears on a Wedgwood plaque of the goddess Hygieia. She is also the maid who is preparing to wash the baby. The furniture is of an advanced Neoclassical type. An inscription on the reverse of the painting may be by a French painter living in Åbo, Sweden (later known as Turku, Finland), 1800.
Current Accession Number 44694i
Former Accession Number CC 5159
Subject figure; interior; still life; everyday life
Measurements 44 x 56.5 cm (estimate)
Material oil on paper (laid on panel)
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Henry Solomon Wellcome 1936.
Provenance Stockholm by about 1919 (;); with Dr Wilhelm Waller, Malmö by 1919 (;); in the collection of Henry Solomon Wellcome, 10 December 1929, £50.
Principal Exhibitions William Hunter and His World, Wellcome Institute, London, 1983, nn; Medicine Man: the Forgotten Museum of Henry Wellcome, The British Museum, London, 2003, nn as A Birth Scene; Pijn (Pain), Museum Dr Guislain, Ghent, 2005-2006, nn.; Pain: Passion, Compassion, Sensibility, The Science Museum, London, 2004, nn.
Publications Porter, R., 'William Hunter Surgeon', History Today, September 1983, vol. 33. pp. 50-2, ill. p. 52; Medicine Man: the Forgotten Museum of Henry Wellcome, London, 2003, p. 84, ill., p. 375.
Notes On the frame is the reference '1800/D.30/MART'. On the reverse is written 'Abo, 1880, S.b.', a town which used to be in Sweden but is now known as Turku and is in Finland. Letter from L. W. G. Malcolm to Henry S. Wellcome, 10 December 1929, ref. M 3131 29 relates to this work. The artist that has been suggested was the French artist Louis Jean Desprez, a French painter working in Sweden, but no mounts at the Witt Library were similar. The furniture is an advanced style of Neoclassicism and the curator at the Wellcome Library believes that it would be unusual were this to be found in Åbo at the time. The painting was not included in the exhibition catalogue in Ghent.
Rights Owner (c) The Wellcome Trust
Author Dr Madeleine Korn



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