Stories of loss

Today, through the work of the Foundling Museum, artists from different creative disciplines continue to find inspiration in the Foundling Hospital stories.


Ceramic reliquary by Grayson PerryIn 2011, the Foundling Museum exhibited clay reliquaries that were made during workshops with young mums and young people who were in care or adopted or in Coram supported housing.The workshops were led by the artist and Foundling Fellow, Grayson Perry.

The young people studied reliquaries alongside the Foundling Museum's collection of tokens – small objects left by mothers with their babies as a means of identification should they ever return to the Foundling Hospital to claim their child. 

The young people then created their own personal objects that would act as modern day tokens, exploring ideas of identity.

The Fallen Woman

'Found Drowned' by GF Watts, c.1848-1850From September 2015 to January 2016, the Foundling Museum staged an exhibition that focused on the myth and reality of the ‘fallen woman’ in Victorian Britain.

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

mage: Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Found Heel and Toe), 2015, bronze shoe heel and instep (photo: Dan Weill)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.

More stories 

To discover more exhibitions exploring issues raised by the Foundling Hospital, visit the Foundling Museum website.

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