Found Drowned

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Found Drowned, GF Watts, c. 1850

Found Drowned is an oil painting by George Frederic Watts in c. 1850. It is one of large four social realist paintings by Watts in 1848-50, created soon after he returned to England from an extended period in Italy. All on melancholy themes, the others are Under the Dry Arch, The Irish Famine, and Song of the Shirt (also known as The Seamstress).

Found Drowned depicts the dead body of a woman washed up beneath the arch of Waterloo Bridge, with her lower body still immersed in the water of the River Thames. She is presumed to have drowned after throwing herself in the river in despair to escape the shame of being a "fallen woman". The grey industrial cityscape of the south bank of the Thames is barely visible in the background through thick smog. Simply dressed, perhaps a servant, her arms and body form the shape of a cross. She holds a locket and chain in one hand, indicating her attachment to her lover, with a single star visible as a sign of hope in the sky above.

The painting was inspired by Thomas Hood's 1844 poem The Bridge of Sighs, like several other Victorian paintings, including Rossetti's Found and Abraham Solomon's Drowned! Drowned!. The scene is echoed in the third painting of Augustus Egg's 1858 series, Past and Present

Watts quickly abandoned his dalliance with social realism, and returned to allegorical themes. He never sold his four social realist paintings, which were first exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1881-2 and are now all held by the Watts Gallery in Compton, near Guildford in Surrey.