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Sarah Osbornec 1860

by Unknown artist

This portrait of wealthy widow, Irish-born Sarah Osborne, reflects a sombre mood. It captures the sitter’s grief at the loss of Henry, her husband of 50 years, compounded by the death of her 18-year-old son John to consumption just three weeks later. In her hand, Sarah holds a letter on black-edged paper, indicating a condolence letter.

After the death of her husband, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria assumed lifelong mourning. Following her model, grieving protocols became more intense in the Australian colonies throughout the second half of the 19th century.