Fantine card

National Museums Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery


WAG 2833

On display


This artwork has been identified as having links to a person connected with transatlantic slavery. This research is part of the Walker Art Gallery’s ongoing work to be more transparent about the collection’s relationship to Britain's colonial past. Margaret Bernardine Hall (1863 - 1910) was the daughter of the wealthy West India merchant Bernard Hall (1813 - 1890), who was the Lord Mayor of Liverpool (1879 - 80). He had made a fortune through his mercantile involvement with the transatlantic slave trade. This family wealth meant that Margaret Hall was able to travel widely, visiting countries as far away as Egypt and Japan. In order to receive the best artistic training she studied in Paris for five years. Margaret's brother Douglas Bernard Hall (1866 - 1923) was the previous owner of this painting. The painting is of the literary character Fantine, who featured in Victor Hugo's novel 'Les Misérables'. Dismissed from her job because of her illegitimate child, she was forced into becoming a sex worker to survive. This striking and sympathetic image shows Fantine protectively watching over her sleeping daughter. The dark surroundings and empty bottle hint at the future dangers and troubles that await both mother and child.