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Gainsborough Dupont, nephew and assistant of Thomas Gainsborough, painted this copy after a work by his uncle while working in the latter's studio in the mid-1780s. In this painting, a young woman and five small children receive alms at the back door of a wealthy household. It has been argued that Gainsborough's interest in painting images of the rural poor derives from ongoing debates about changes in the agricultural economy that resulted in the displacement and impoverishment of country-dwellers.
It is undoubtedly true, though a phenomenon of the human mind difficult to account for, that the representation of distress frequently gives pleasure.
-J. and A.L. Aikin, 1773