The Present

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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A young woman sits side-on to us. She wears a relaxed but delicate and costly gown, her hair casually caught back in a soft chignon. She looks down, apparently calmly, at a gleaming ceramic statuette of a snarling tiger, poised to pounce. Its expression and stylised pose are reminiscent of mythological creatures in the Japanese art that was of great interest in Western Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century. The woman is slumped, caught unawares. Her head is erect but her lips are firmly pressed together and her eyes are downcast, held by the tiger that glares back at her. Stevens has paid great attention to the detail of its shell-like surface, its arched tail and bulging eyes. It glints in the light – but not enough to detract from the note in the woman’s hand, about to slide to the floor between limp fingers.

The National Gallery, London



The Present


about 1866-71


Oil on canvas


H 37 x W 46 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Sir Hugh Lane Bequest, 1917

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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