The artist's letters to the first owner of this picture have survived, and provide a fascinating insight into his work.

In the first letter, he writes of the painting: 'I hope you will not care for it less on intimate acquaintance. One is not always the best judge of one's own work, but it will not, I think diminish the value of the picture in your eyes to know that I consider it in many respects the best I have ever painted.' He was clearly then asked to explain the meaning of the painting, which he does in another letter: 'With respect to the intention of the design, it is a symbol of Charity, large of heart and hand, dispensing the benefits of love, sympathy, generosity and protection. All my works are symbolic of the highest human attributes and suggestions, excepting when I presume a note of warning. These things are held to be outside the province of Art. I think differently.


Sir John Reid; by descent to the donor (who wishes to remain anonymous).


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