A picture of the past

Intricate detail on the Vienese painting in the nursery at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

Stoneywell is the epitome of William Morris' golden rule: 'have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.' From Arts and Crafts creations to treasures from a time fondly remembered, the items of Stoneywell's collection have rich and fascinating stories to tell. This month we take a closer look at the Austrian Red Cross print, which hangs in the nursery.

As you step into the nursery, your eyes can't help but be drawn to the painting that hangs above the door on the other side of the room. Little of its one hundred years of history is betrayed by the picture's rich display of striking primary colours, which appear almost untouched by time.

The painting catches the eye above the nursery door
The Vienese painting hangs above the door in the nursery at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

Many paintings such as this one on display at Stoneywell were produced by an orphanage in Vienna, Austria. They were painted - or perhaps just coloured - by the children there to sell through the Red Cross to raise funds supporting the work of the orphanage after the First World War. This particular painting dates to circa 1920.

Much about this painting remains unknown. Has it always been at Stoneywell or did it once belong to the family home on Glebe Street? What do we know about any others in the country or throughout Europe? Maybe one day we'll know more about the significance of this painting both to the Gimson family and the wider community.

Volunteers are on hand to share more information on a guided tour
Visitors discover more about the Vienese painting on a tour of the nursery at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

Why is this painting so special to Stoneywell?

Beyond it's immediate beauty, this painting shows Sydney Gimson in a very good light and is another example of his philanthropic character.

There are two smaller but similar works on the opposite wall of the nursery. During the First World War Sydney was very involved in helping Belgian refugees who had fled the German advance in 1914. Assistance was given to more than one thousand in Leicester alone, with one hundred houses being given over to refugees. Because they were of several different faiths, it was decided least controversial to appoint Sydney - a professional atheist - to undertake this pastoral work. Sydney's work was recognised by the award of the Albert Medal from H.M the King of the Belgians, Albert I.

Two smaller pictures hang on the opposite wall of the nursery
Two small Vienese paintings in the nursery at Stoneywell, Leicestershire