The Babes in the Wood

Artist: Thomas Crawford (American, New York 1813?–1857 London)

Date: ca. 1850, carved 1851

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: 17 x 49 x 33 1/2 in. (43.2 x 124.5 x 85.1 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Bequest of Hamilton Fish, 1894

Accession Number: 94.9.4


Crawford derived the subject for this sculpture from an old English ballad of the same title, which describes the abandonment and death of an orphaned boy and his younger sister. Clasped in each other’s arms on the floor of a forest, they pass serenely into eternal slumber—a state underscored by their tranquil features. The painstakingly carved leaves and acorns allude to the part of the story in which a robin covers the children with foliage as a substitute for a proper burial. The poignant group is an example of Victorian attempts to soften the anguish of death by treating it with bittersweet sentimentality.