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Charles Sprague Pearce
Lamentations over the Death of the Firstborn of Egypt
1877
oil
38 1/2 x 51 1/2 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum



Based on a passage from the biblical Book of Exodus, a couple mourns the vengeful slaughter of their son. The weeping parents shield their faces as they poise over the child's sarcophagus. At lower right, shattered children's toys refer to the tragic loss. In the Victorian era, when infant mortality was still prevalent and many parents endured the loss of a child, Pearce's Old Testament subject aroused all-too-modern feelings of grief.