The painting which was originally intended for the Foundling Hospital in London somehow found its way to the Yale Centre for British Arts, Connecticut.
The Angel of Mercy is a part of the Paul Mellon collection which is returning on loan from the US and is to be hung on the walls of where it was truly intended. It will be exhibited at the Basic Instincts art show, the first exhibition of 50 years that majorly displays the works of Joseph Highmore, from 29 September 2017 to 7 January 2018 at the Foundling Museum, London.
The work, painted with oil on a canvas is an emotional provocative painting that portrays an Angel interrupting a woman about to choke her infant to death with a coral-ribbon while showing her the newly erected Foundling Hospital granting succour to helpless mothers and their children.
The abandoned children of Georgian London were the reason Captain Thomas Coram founded the hospital. It got donations from prominent people including his friend, William Hogart who spared no expense in providing uniforms for the children. Handel also performed charitable concerts for the hospital.
The painting of almost 300 years old was formerly rejected by the hospital when it was first offered as the work of William Hogart. It had stayed with Highmore’s family till the offering. The collector Paul Melon later correctly recognized the work as Highmore’s after it was sold twice as the work of Hogart.
Joseph Highmore was the governor of the Foundling Hospital in London but was best known as a portraitist, painter and author. He did historical paintings which includes illustrations of biblical contents one of which was “Hagar and Ishmael” which is presently part of the works of Highmore at the Foundling Museum.
To earn a living outside his painting profession and position at the hospital, Highmore was into pot boilers.