Painting Costume Analysis: Pamela Series, Part Twelve

XII: Pamela Tells A Nursery Tale, Joseph Highmore, 1743-4; Fitzwilliam Museum M.Add.9

The whole story ends, of course, with Pamela a loving mother. Her views on child-raising are fairly sensible and modern: she insists on nursing her infants herself, she is against swaddling, and she believes that girls should be educated.

This specific scene is described in letter 113, in the fourth volume.
Miss Goodwin imagine you see on my right hand, sitting on a velvet stool, because she is eldest, and a Miss: Billy on my left, in a little cane elbow chair, because he is eldest, and a good boy: My Davers, and my sparkling-eyed Pamela, with my Charley between them, on little silken cushions at my feet, hand-in-hand, their pleased eyes looking up to my more delighted ones, and my sweet-natured promising Jemmy in my lap; the nurses and the cradle just behind us, and the nursery-maids delightedly performing some useful needle-work, for the dear charmers of my heart.



In the last painting in the series, Pamela is once again dressed in light blue, a color which has strong associations with the Madonna - appropriate for the scene. Her sleeves are wide, with no cuffs, and she may not be wearing a hoop. Her cap is of the more concealing type, but the ears are pinned up; her kerchief is translucent, and has a ruffle around the edge. Only the top of Jemmy's head can be seen.


Billy seems to have been breeched, and is wearing a red coat with a cravat over a black waistcoat. His hair is powdered and tied back in an adult style. Meanwhile, Davers's hair is loose and fairly short (as well as unpowdered), and he is wearing a white gown, as are Pamela and Charley, who have switched places for the purpose of composition. The top of little Pamela's hair is covered with a pink-ribboned cap in a woman's style, while Charley's head is firmly encased in a baby's cap with a blue bow.


Miss Goodwin - Mr. B's illegitimate daughter, if you remember - is, like Billy, in adult dress. Her gold taffeta gown has ivory/pale yellow cuffs and robins, and her cap (shaped like little Pamela's) has what looks to be a blue flower on it. I believe there is a tucker around her neckline.


The children's nurses are very well-dressed, in gold and blue taffeta. One nurse's cap is pinned up, the other's is not. Both are wearing opaque kerchiefs, but possibly no aprons.


The nursery-maid in the back, sewing linen for the children, may also be wearing gold taffeta. She also has an apron, a kerchief, and a cap that is fastened under her chin. In some ways, this maid brings the story in the paintings around full circle, to Pamela's original position in Mr. B's mother's household.

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