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19 April 2014
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You are in: Cornwall > History > History Links > Victorian Adventures

Illustration by Madalene and Louisa

Victorian Adventures

An exhibition of artwork by Victorian sisters Madalene and Louisa Pasley who lived in Devonport in the 1850's is currently showing at Mount Edgcumbe House. The sisters extraordinary illustrations have never been exhibited before.

The adventures of Madalene and Louisa is one of the feature exhibitions being staged over the summer at Mount Edgcumbe House. Madalene and Louisa Pasley were the daughters of Admiral Sir Thomas Sabine Pasley who was Superintendent of Devonport Dockyard in the 1850's and 1860's.

Picture of sisters Madalene and Louisa

Sisters Madelene and Louisa

The teenage sisters thought to be aged between 14 and 16 years old led a fascinating life. They would study insects and produce very accurate and intricate illustrations of what they had discovered.

This was not the only point of interest in the sisters drawings. They also portrayed themselves in the pictures as little old ladies and the insects in comparison as gigantic creatures.  

It seems hard to believe that such detailed drawings were done by teenage girls but at the time there wasn't much any photography so illustration was very much a part of every day life, especially with a middle class family such as the Pasleys.

The teenagers are said to have been inspired by Charles Darwin in their fascination with the natural world. At the time the sisters were growing up, 150 years ago, Charles Darwin was making his key discoveries. This is why Mount Edgcumbe House has the Darwin exhibition to coincide with the Madalene and Louisa event.

Madalene and Louisa's artwork

Madalene and Louisa's illustrations

This combined with a reading of classic books such as Tom Thumb and Alice in Wonderland, makes for a unique collection of art.

The collection has stayed out of the public eye for many years now. Their great nephew Tim Jeal used their illustrations to produce a book in the 1980's but that has since gone out of print, he has now decided they should be displayed publicly.

The exhibition will be at Mount Edgcumbe House until the end of September 2009.

last updated: 09/07/2009 at 13:29
created: 08/07/2009

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