Acts of Mercy is the title given to two pairs of large oil paintings by Fredrick Cayley Robinson that, in the words of U.K.’s National Gallery, “memorably explore the positive forces of the human spirit in the face of destruction.” They were commissioned for the entrance hall of London’s Middlesex Hospital around 1912 and painted between 1915 and 1920, coinciding with the horrors of the First World War.
In Orphans I and II, forlorn young women file into the orphan refectory to receive bowls of milk. One girl in each frame returns the spectator’s gaze. The Doctor I and II show the hospital from the outside. Wounded soldiers gather at the entrance in the left panel, while in the right a kindly doctor offers his blessings to a bandaged child and her kneeling mother. By adopting the motifs of ecclesiastical art, such as Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ and Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Robinson likens the hospital to a house of worship and its staff to Christ-figures.
Credit Line: Image by the Wellcome Library, London (CC BY 4.0).