The Fashionable Mamma, or, The Convenience of Modern Dress

A work made of hand-colored etching on ivory wove paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

Image actions

  • A work made of hand-colored etching on ivory wove paper.

Date:

published February 15, 1796

Artist:

James Gillray (English, 1756-1815)
published by Hannah Humphrey (English, c. 1745-1818)

About this artwork

Mothers and children were popular visual subjects long before the 19th century; it wasn’t until after the Enlightenment, however, that images of maternal undress were accepted in contexts other than the representation of Christian subjects. Beginning with the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other Enlightenment-era thinkers, people began to view childhood as a treasured moment in human development rather than a mere step to productive adulthood. As a result, children were increasingly seen as carefree, innocent, and deserving of protection. Their nudity in art was a commonly used symbol of natural purity and vulnerability.

As views of childhood changed, so did ideas about the roles of mothers. Women of the upper class were encouraged to be more active in the daily lives of their children, and works in this gallery illustrate such activities as bathing, nursing, and soothing. The common use of wet nurses was increasingly discouraged, not only by male philosophers and medical doctors, but also by an emerging feminist movement. As with today’s breastfeeding advocacy, mothers in the 19th century were taught the benefits of nursing, both in terms of public health but also as a means of fostering healthy emotional and physical bonds with their children. Works in this gallery by Mary Cassatt, Lovis Corinth, Helen Hyde, and Édouard Jean Vuillard, among others, celebrate tender interactions between mothers and their young children.

Currently Off View

Prints and Drawings

Artist

James Gillray

Title

The Fashionable Mamma, or, The Convenience of Modern Dress

Origin

England

Date

1796

Medium

Hand-colored etching on ivory wove paper

Dimensions

346 × 245 mm (image); 349 × 249 mm (plate); 354 × 253 mm (sheet)

Credit Line

Gift of Thomas F. Furness in memory of William McCallin McKee

Reference Number

1928.1492

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

Share

Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions

Share