In an age when sexual innocence was highly valued and sex for a respectable woman was deemed appropriate only within marriage, the figure of the ‘fallen’ woman was popularly portrayed in art, literature and the media as Victorian moralists warned against the consequences of losing one’s virtue.
The exhibition brought together the work of artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Richard Redgrave, Thomas Faed and George Frederic Watts.
In addition, newspaper illustrations and stereoscopes demonstrated how depictions of the fallen woman in popular culture also helped define a woman’s role and limitations within society.
The exhibition also explored the written petitions of women applying to the Foundling Hospital at the time. During the early 19th century, London’s Foundling Hospital changed its admission process to focus on restoring respectability to the mother. Only the petitions of previously 'respectable' women bearing their first illegitimate child were considered.
Pictured above George Frederic Watts (1817–1904), Found Drowned, c.1848-1850, Oil on canvas. © Watts Gallery Trust
In order for something to be ‘found’, it has to at some point in its history been ‘lost’ – Cornelia Parker
In 2016, artist and Foundling Fellow Cornelia Parker invited more than 60 artists from a range of creative disciplines to contribute to the Foundling Museum exhibition 'FOUND' either a new, or existing, piece of work, or an object that they found and kept for its significance.
Her inspiration was, in part, taken from the Foundling Museum’s collection of tokens.
Participating artists include: Ron Arad RA, Phyllida Barlow RA, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Deacon RA, Tacita Dean RA, Jeremy Deller, Brian Eno, Antony Gormley RA, Mona Hatoum, Thomas Heatherwick RA, Christian Marclay, Mike Nelson, Laure Prouvost, David Shrigley, Bob and Roberta Smith RA, Wolfgang Tillmans RA, Edmund de Waal, Marina Warner and Rachel Whiteread.
To discover more exhibitions exploring issues raised by the Foundling Hospital, visit the Foundling Museum website.