[The New Governess]
oil on canvas
19 3/4 x 16"
1836 - 1908.
This was a popular subject in mid-century with an estimated 20,000 governesses leading a precarious life, subject to instant dismissal if they upset the family (notice the numerous travel labels on her trunk), poorly paid but not quite a servant and not one of the family. Given the black dress, she is probably a widow fallen on hard times, or perhaps from a genteel family whose father has died. She seems to be holding the photograph of a man. The novels Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey brought attention to their plight.
This picture was exhibited at the RA in 1877.