This has to be one of the most poignant collections in London………
The Foundling Hospital Collection
- The Foundling Hospital Collection spans four centuries and contains paintings, sculpture, prints, manuscripts, furniture, clocks, photographs and ephemera.
- Some of the most poignant items in the Collection are the foundling tokens.
- These were pinned by mothers to their baby’s clothes and upon entry, the Hospital would attach them to the child’s record of admission.
- As foundling babies were given new names, these tokens helped ensure correct identification, should a parent ever return to claim their child.
- The children were not allowed to keep their tokens, which were frequently everyday objects, such as a coin or button.
- The Hospital gradually evolved a more sophisticated administrative system, whereby mothers were issued with receipts. So the practice of leaving tokens died out at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The Foundling Hospital Art Collection began in 1740, when William Hogarth donated his magnificent portrait of Captain Thomas Coram.
- This painting commemorated George II signing the Charter for the Hospital’s establishment.
- Encouraged by Hogarth, many of the leading artists of the day supported the Hospital in its early years.
- Hogarth donated further artworks, as did contemporaries including Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Hudson, Allan Ramsay, Joshua Reynolds, Louis-François Roubiliac and John Michael Rysbrack.
- In 1857 the Hospital Governors decided to create a designated ‘Picture Room’ to best display and preserve the Hospital’s Art Collection.
Although the original Hospital building was torn down in the 1920s, the Foundling Museum contains many elements of the original interiors. These include the fully restored Court Room with its glorious rococo plasterwork; recreations of the Committee Room and the Picture Gallery; the oak staircase from the Hospital’s West Wing and two altarpieces, the font and pews from the Hospital’s Chapel.
Integral to the Court Room’s design are four large scale biblical paintings by Hogarth, Francis Hayman, Joseph Highmore and James Wills and between them, roundels depicting topographical scenes of London Hospitals by artists including Gainsborough, Samuel Wale and Richard Wilson. The sculptor John Michael Rysbrack produced the marble relief set into John Devall’s marble chimney piece.
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