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Maria Charlesc 1898

by Tom Roberts

Archivists from the historic Yulgilbar Castle in the Clarence Valley, northern NSW, have recently identified the woman in this Tom Roberts painting as Maria Charles a local Bundjalung woman, who worked in the laundry at the Ogilvie family’s Yulgilbar Castle. Maria’s mother, Queen Jinnie Little, also worked at Yugilbar, along with many other Aboriginal people from the nearby Baryulgil community.

Tom Roberts visited Yulgilbar in 1894, where he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Edward Ogilvie, the wealthy pastoralist and owner of the castle. Roberts’ sketchbook from this time includes a pencil drawing of Maria.

This might be the painting Maria Yulgilbar which Roberts exhibited in the Society of Artists exhibition of 1895.