At Rest (Nell dead)

["At Rest (Nell dead)"] by George Cattermole. 3 3/4 x 4 ½ inches. Wood-engraving. Chapter 71, The Old Curiosity Shop. 30 January 1841 in serial publication (seventy-third plate in the series).

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Like Henry Wallis's well-known painting The Death of Chatterton (1856) Cattermole's illustration relies on several obvious symbols to transform a picture of a girl in bed into a scene of secular martyrdom: the open window in both paintings represents the flight of the soul from the body while the emptied hourglass in the illustration, like the extinguished candle in the painting, emphasizes the end of a human life. Whereas Wallis's painting relies on Chatterton's pose to recall depositions and other examples of sacred history — a familiar device in both Northern and Italian Renaissance painting — Cattermole's illustration uses the Hogarthian (and Northern Renaissance) device of using an image of a standard religious scene within the picture space to transform it into a sacred space. The nativity scene — see detail — depicts Christ's entrance into human history and suggests that Little Nell has been reborn in heaven. [GPL]

Scholars Programme

References

Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop in Master Humphrey's Clock. 3 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1840. II, 210.


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Last modified 4 January 2006