Thursday 5 February 2015

My Foundling Girl by Joan Lennon

I can't remember when I first learned about Thomas Coram and the Foundling Hospital, about Handel's charity performances of The Messiah, or about how artists would donate work to what was in effect the first public art gallery in the UK.  But I do know that I was very drawn to the posts I read here by other History Girls* over the years which referred to that hugely evocative place.  Heart-breaking.  Inspiring.  Up-lifting.  Rending.

And now I have a link of my own.  She has no name, and a few days ago I didn't even know she existed.  She's called "The Foundling Girl" and now she's my foundling girl. Because on Monday 2 February, slips of paper were drawn out of a tricorn hat and I was randomly paired with her.

This was the beginning of a collaboration between the writers' collective 26 and the curators of the Foundling Museum, called "26 Pairs of Eyes: Looking at the Overlooked" which will be launched this summer. The object I've been asked to respond to was a marble bust made by David Watson Stevenson in 1871.  I found her tucked behind a door in a corridor between two rooms. 

She was cream marble against a cream wall.

I most likely would have overlooked her. But now, I was transfixed.

Projects like this are a challenge, of course they are, but also what a gift!  Do you have a statue or a painting or an artefact in the Foundling Museum or any other museum/gallery that's somehow yours?  It's great, isn't it? 

And if you get the chance, be sure to visit my girl. 

* Such as Lucy Inglis' post on the 10th anniversary of the Foundling Museum and the 275th anniversary of the Foundling Hospital: "Be Not Ashamed You were Bred in This Hospital. Own it."

or Penny Dolan's experience: My Coram Cup

or Eleanor Updale's story of her father:  Another Side of Christmas 1918

So worth re-reading!

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.


Sue Purkiss said...

What an interesting project!

Here's a question, which I admit is very peripheral to your post. Is there a technical reason as to why sculptors often don't carve a pupil in an eye - so that the eyes look blank? I've often wondered.

Joan Lennon said...

I think it's to do with the classical tradition of painting the details in (which I think would have looked really garish and awful!), but by the time the statues were re-discovered only the lovely white stone remained. But I checked other busts in the museum and lots of them did have pupils carved in them, so maybe Stevenson was saying something?

Susan Price said...

Loved this Joan - and thanks for the links to the other great Coram posts.
Really looking forward to your piece on the Foundling Girl.
No pressure, though!

Christina Koning said...

Thanks for this, Joan - I very much enjoyed it. What a wonderful project, and an inspiring set of images... Re: Sue's question - I think the Classical Greek tradition was not to carve the pupils of eyes (perhaps for the reason Joan mentions) but the Romans did (they also used bits of mosaic to give the eyes of their statues colour). Like Joan, I prefer the Greek 'blankness' to the painted/mosaic realism...

Sue Purkiss said...

I don't like the idea of paint - but I do find those blank eyeballs slightly sinister. Surely they could do them in relief?

michelle lovric said...

She's a beauty, isn't she? A composite totem of what an innocent rescued girl should look like. I love that you got her by drawing her out of a tricorno hat!