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21 September 2015

(c) The Foundling Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

‘What happened to the mothers who arrived with their babies at the Foundling hospital, as played out across the art and literature and music of the century, was to be a lesson to all the rest. The “fault” was all female’: the conclusion to Joanna Moorhead’s preview of the exhibition, called The Fallen Woman, that opens at the Foundling Hospital on Friday and runs until January 3rd. We often think of the women walking up past the shop to deposit their babies at the Hospital – you can still see the window ledges where they put them (in the wall that runs east along Guilford Street from the corner with Grenville St). A Mother Depositing Her Child at a Foundling Hospital by Henry Nelson O’Neil 1855 shows L’Hôpital des Enfants-Trouvés in Paris,  which ‘was established by royal edict in 1670 during the reign of Louis XIV. The Paris Hospital differed in many respects from its London counterpart. It had a different admission system whereby mothers were not required to bring their children to the Hospital but could abandon them in a public place or, as illustrated in this picture, leave them at the Hospital gate’ (PCF/BBC). This painting is in the London Foundling Hospital collection – it was purchased by Coram in 1987 – and will be on display in the exhibition.

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