Industry (The Knitting-Girl)

Mary Thornycroft

Source: 1861 Art-Journal

“The title given to this statue by the lady who sculptured it was, if we remember correctly, 'The Knitting-Girl.' We have preferred one of a more general and comprehensive nature, warranted not only” by the "attributes" with which the figure is invested, but also by the motto encircling the base line borrowed from the well-known "moral song" which, since it was written, almost every child who is taught anything, learns to lisp in its earliest years. All such abstract titles must, however, be considered comparatively indefinite; they furnish a clue to the meaning of the work, but nothing more: the key which opens it and makes it intelligible, must be found in the work itself. "Industry," for instance, might be exemplified in a hundred different forms, that would suggest themselves to any mind, especially in a country like ours, which may be regarded as the mart of industry, as varied as it is wide; in others it would be necessarily more limited; and in some few, the word would seem to be almost, if not quite, unknown, and would, therefore, have no definite meaning attached to it.”

Mrs. Thornycroft's statue represents this moral virtue by a young girl, bearing in one hand materials for needlework, and in the other a book: the symbols are very properly selected, as significant of manual and intellectual "industry:" the face, however, is scarcely in harmony with these characteristics; it is childlike and pleasant, but there is an expression of heaviness that would incline us to assume that books and work were less acceptable than healthful play. In all the qualities which constitute sculptural excellence, this little figure commends itself to favourable regard: it stands easily, the action of the limbs is natural, and the costume is picturesque in form and arrangement. If the fold which crosses the right arm, just above the elbow, were less obtrusive, it would have improved that portion of the drapery. — Art-Journal

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