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Wilson, 'The Infancy of the History of Childhood', pp.195-6; M. Anderson, Approaches to the History o/the Western Family (London, 1980), p.61 14 Pollock, Forgotten Children, pp.51; Wilson, 'The Infancy of the History of Childhood', pp.194-5 15 Wrightson, English Society, p.118; Pollock, Forgotten Children, p.235 emphasis on women's actual or potential matemity.16 Such models were reinforced by the work of medical historians, including that of Londa Schiebinger who examined the first drawings of the female skeleton in the eighteenth century. These emphasised large pelvises and small brains and thus suggested both the natural affinity of women with childbirth and their limited intellectual capacityP However, once again, such developmental theses have been countered with assertions of continuity. Patricia Crawford has demonstrated the existence of an emphasis on the procreative role of women in the seventeenth century and Robert Shoemaker has argued that, whilst mothers may have assumed more of the day-to-day care of children as the period progressed, they had always been more responsible for childrearing than their husbands. 18 Thus, the twin issues that dominate the historiography of parenthood are the degree of love and attention directed towards offspring and the association of women with motherhood. Once again, confusion seems to stem partly from an elision of source materials. The diaries and letters examined by Linda Pollock do show close 16 R.
Eighteenth-Century Anatomy', in C. Gallagher and T. Laqueur, eds., The Making of the Modern Body:
Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1987), pp.42-82.
See also A. Callen, 'The Body and Difference: Anatomy Training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the later Nineteenth Century', Art History 20, 1 (March 1997), pp.23-60 18 P. Crawford, 'The Construction and Experience of Maternity Seventeenth-Century England', in V. Fildes, ed., Women as Mothers in Pre-Industrial England: Essays in Memory of Dorothy MclAren (London and New York, 1990), pp.3-38; P. Crawford, "The Sucking Child': Adult Attitudes to Child Care in the First Year of Life in Seventeenth-Century England', Continuity and parent-child relationships at an early date and the female duties of childbearing and childrearing clearly did receive much attention before the 1700s. However, what changed in the eighteenth century was the literary construction of parenthood in general and maternity in particular. This textual ideology that has often been conflated with reality. Amanda Vickery, whilst emphasising motherhood as an inescapable historical phenomenon, has also pointed to a surge of cloying idealisation in the prescriptive and fictional ideal in this period. Writers glamorised maternal duties which became increasingly fashionable, a romanticisation that sat somewhat uncomfortably with the harsh realities of the fear and pain of motherhood. 19 Others have agreed that maternity came to be elevated, praised, re-constructed as a praised
occupation and endowed with a peculiarly moral dimension. 2o To quote Ruth Perry:
"Writers began to wax sentimental about maternity, to accord it high moral stature, and to construct it as noble, strong, and self-sacrificial...matemal sentiment began to emerge as an emotional force capable of moving a reading public, understood as the
See, for example, 1.S. Lewis, In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, (New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1986), p.62; GJ. Barker-Benfield, 1760-1860 The Culture of Sensibility: Sex and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Chicago and London, 1992), p.276; R.
Bloch, 'Untangling the Roots of Modern Sex Roles: A Survey of Four Centuries of Change', Signs:
Journal of Women in Culture and Society 4,2 (1978), pp.249-50. John Tosh in 'Authority and Nurture in Middle-Class Fatherhood: The Case of Early and Mid-Victorian England', Gender and History 8, 1 (April 1996), p.52 claims the early Victorians "stood at the end of two generations during which the status of mother had steadily risen.... " Also see p.59. Susan Staves in 'Douglas's Mother', in J.H.
Smith, ed., Brandeis Essays in Literature (Waltham, Massachusetts, 1983), p.53 argues that the centrality of the character of Lady Randolph in John Homes's play, Douglas (1756), reflects "an attempt to articulate and dramatize what was in 1756 a relatively new sentiment: elaborated tenderness between mothers and children." For similar developments in America, see Bloch, 'American Feminine Ideals in Transition', pp.l01-26 sign of an innately moral and uniquely female sensibility."21 Not only did interest in and the importance attached to maternity boom in the eighteenth century, but the quantity of the published material that expressed such dictums similarly increased.
This was partly as a result of the new availability of printed material combined with enhanced rates of literacy, discussed above, but partly as a product of the new importance attached to the subject. 22 It is also arguable that this literature was increasingly addressed directly to mothers, moving away from more general audiences and from specialists such as midwives and nurses. 23 It is this ideological transition that is critical for the transition in portraiture but which, once again, overlays a disparate reality.
* * * * * The shift in pictorial representations of mothers and children in the mid eighteenth century has been fairly frequently discussed. Scholars of childhood have R. Perry, 'Colonizing the Breast: Sexuality and Maternity in Eighteenth-Century England', in J.e. Fout, ed., Forbidden History: The State, Society. and the Regulation of Sexuality in Modern Europe (Chicago and London, 1992), p.117. See also p.1 08 Perry, 'Colonizing the Breast', p.119. See chapter 1, pp.71-3 23 A.J. Stewart, D.G. Winter and A.D. Jones in 'Coding Categories for the Study of ChildRearing from Historical Sources', Journal of Interdisciplinary History 5,4 (Spring 1975), p.701 argue that childrearing literature became increasingly directed at women and moved away from an emphasis on both parents as co-rearers. Valerie A. Fildes, Breasts. Bottles and Babies: A History of Infant Feeding (Edinburgh, 1986), p.116 notes a move in intended audience from midwives, nurses and general readers to mothers themselves. She contends that this promoted a new attention to the benefits of maternal breastfeeding for the health of the mother, appealing to the self-interest of the newly specific audience. John Tosh in 'Authority and Nurture in Middle-Class Fatherhood', p.52 places the transition as later, arguing that eighteenth-century literature was largely addressed to fathers whereas nineteenth-century writings focussed much more on the role of the mother.
shown considerably more awareness of and deployed paintings more frequently than those in almost any other branch of historical inquiry. As noted in the introduction, Lawrence Stone echoed Aries in postulating a shift from formal and posed portrayals of the family in the seventeenth century to a new sense of affect and an enhanced emphasis on the role of offspring in the eighteenth. 24 J.H. Plumb later reinforced the
idea of a transition:
Up to about 1730 family portraits are formally posed groups; increasingly, however, after 1730 children are shown playing or reading or sketching or fishing or picknicking with their parents... Also, portraits of individual children are far more common in the eighteenth century than in the seventeenth century, again arguing both for a change in fashionable attitudes, and also, may be, for a greater emotional investment in children by parents. 25 This developmental model has been echoed by many art historians. For example, in the catalogue to an exhibition at Berkeley in 1995, significantly entitled The New Child: British Art and the Origins of Modem Childhood, 1730-1830, J.C. Steward similarly argued that portraits of parents became more affectionate and spontaneous throughout the eighteenth century. He posited that the child came to be depicted as an
I.H. Plumb, 'The New World of Children in Eighteenth-Century England', Past and Present 67 (1975), p.67. More recently, K. Calvert, Children in the House: The Material Culture of Early Childhood 1600-1900 (Boston, 1992) has provided a detailed examination of the history of childhood through material sources, arguing that successive constellations of juvenile artefacts evidence both the simple physical needs of offspring and contemporary cultural images of childhood. She concludes that, from attempting to force children into adulthood as quickly as possible, parents after 1750 sought to extend and indulge the early stages of development.
individual requiring love and nurture, moving from a peripheral role to a new location at the very centre of the family unit. 26 A brief survey of portraits of women accompanied by their offspring in this period certainly reveals a number of broad developments taking place. First, as the century progresses, the mother and child are more frequently isolated from the larger family group and the nearer gaze of the spectator renders the scene more intimate and more direct. In early works such as Charles Phillips's Sir William Strickland and his Family in a Parkland Setting of 1731 (fig.55) or Devis's A Family Group on a Terrace in a Garden, women are depicted with one child seated on their lap with a larger group of siblings, the pater familias and extended kin grouped around. Whilst such populous family portraits continued to be painted by artists such as Johann Zoffany, working later in the century, it is nonetheless noticeable that, alongside the continuing (if fluctuating) popularity of the conversation piece, the mother and child were increasingly singled out for attention.
Second, the encoding of the maternal bond within stiffly posed decorum gave way to a greater intimacy and interaction between sitters. Reviewers discussing the annual exhibitions at the Royal Academy approvingly noted such developments. They began to criticise portraits that continued to utilise stiff poses and to emphasise manners over and above affection. One such writer in the Middlesex Journal in 1772, discussing A Lady and Children by a little known artist named John Blackburne, wrote: "If there be any fault in this piece, it is that the lady is rather a little too stiff, and looks more like a prim old maid, than the mother of so many children."27 Thus, J.e.
26 Steward, The New Child: British Art and the Origins of Modern Childhood 1730-1830 (Berkeley, 1995), especially pp.11, 16-21 27 The Middlesex Journal 23-26 April 1772 from the child sitting upright on its equally rigid mother's knee, the more infantile late eighteenth-century offspring leans and lolls against its parent, frequently reaching its arms up to return her embrace, as exemplified in Reynolds's portrait of The Ron. Mrs Bouverie of Delapre and her Child, Harriet of 1770 (fig. 56). In contrast to an earlier image such as Joseph Highmore's Mrs Sharpe and her Child (fig.57), the sitter is absorbed in the object of her maternal concern and affection, her posture and dress envelop the infant and there is a much greater degree of physical contact. 'The fiction of candour' comes into playas the sitters are engrossed in each other and give the viewer the impression of his or her non-existence or of their unawareness of that existence. 28 In contrast, Wright of Derby's Lady Juliana Elizabeth Wilmot and her Son, Robert John of 1788 (fig.58), whilst similarly demonstrating anew, intimate ethos, has exploited the consciousness of the presence of an external gaze to prompt a transfixed stare from Robert Wilmot. In response to the artist and viewer, he clambers over his mother's lap to seek refuge in her shoulder as she supports and protects him.
Thus, the act of display is negated by the retreat into privacy and intimacy.
Another development in these later images is the sense of childish play. Whilst present throughout the century (children as shown by Arthur Devis are frequently engaged with cards, dolls or miniature drums), material games and toys are accompanied or replaced by increasingly compatible physical attitudes. George on his mother's lap in the portrait of the Strickland family may grasp at a chain of flowers attached to the neck of a lamb, gazing fixedly towards the animal, but these signs of infancy are tempered by a desire to accord with contemporary notions of decorum. He For the 'fiction of candour' see chapter 1, p.75 which outlines the argument of H.Berger, 'Fictions of the Pose: Facing the Gaze of Early Modem Portraiture', Representations 46 (Spring 1994), pp.98, 102 is described in terms of adult posture and physiognomy and is firmly situated within structures of power and familial hierarchy as the father directs the viewer's attention towards his eldest son and heir. Similarly, play ceases to be restricted to the children themselves (their mothers and fathers merely providing physical support or gesticulating towards them), and increasingly involves the parents who indulge and participate. Thus, Mrs Hoare, Mrs Bouverie and Lady Wilmot react to and humour the children who pull at their clothes, bury themselves into their shoulders or play with their faces.