Dame Ursula and Margaret

Oil on board, signed verso
Image size: 16 x 12 inches (40.5 x 30.5 cm)
Original frame


Royal Academy 1854 No. 461
Thomas Agnew & Sons

A scene from the “The Fortunes of Nigel” in a book by Walter Scott. Egg was commissioned to paint illustrations for the book.

The painting depicts Margaret Ramsay seated on a chair, in a rather sulky fashion, with Dame Ursula behind her looking concerned.

“Dame Ursula drew herself as close as she could to her patient, and began in a low, soothing and confidential tone of voice, to inquire what ailed her pretty flower of neighbours.”


Augustus Leopold Egg was born in London on 2nd May 1816. He attended Henry Sass Drawing School in preparation for entering the Royal Academy. His painting A Spanish Girl was accepted by the Academy in 1838. At about this time he formed The Clique, a sketching club, with William Powell Frith and Richard Dadd.

In the 1840s Egg began painting comic scenes from Shakespeare, Lord Byron and Walter Scott. He also painted historical pictures such as Queen Elizabeth Discovers She is No Longer Young (1848), The Life and Death of Buckingham (1855) and The Night Before Naseby (1859).

In 1859 Egg produced a series of three paintings called Past and Present. Influenced by the moral paintings of William Hogarth, the pictures tell the story of a man that Egg knew, whose wife had been unfaithful. In the first picture the husband discovers his wife’s infidelity; he holds the letter that has enabled him to discover the betrayal and crushes a picture of his wife’s lover under his foot. The second and third pictures both take place at the same moment, five years later, after the death of the father. One picture shows the children alone in the home, whereas the mother is living under the Adelphi arches in London.

Egg, a friend of the writer Charles Dickens, suffered from chronic respiratory disease. In 1863 Egg was advised that his health would improve if he lived in Africa. This move was unsuccessful and Augustus Leopold Egg died in Algiers on 25th March, 1863.