Health and Safety would not allow this now. One sneeze and the child is on the floor.
Ford Madox Brown, Waiting: An English Fireside of 1854-5 (1855)
"Although Madox Brown portrays his own wife Emma, whom he married after she gave birth to his child, it could be thought that the composition of the mother holding her baby on her lap in this painting helps the painter to depict the ideal relationship between an affectionate mother and her child, when compared with the traditional iconography of Child Christ and Mary Virgin. (Barringer, 1998, p. 91) The woman sitting by the fireside devotes herself to sewing. Her ability to housekeep as an ideal wife should is illustrated in this simple but delightful setting. It is also likely that the woman on the hearth symbolises domestic comfort which was commonly idealised during the Victorian period. (Casteras, 1995) However, as the title, and the portrait miniature lying on a pile of letters on a desk at her side suggest, this woman is waiting for her husband, an soldier away at the front in the Crimean War, which started one year before Brown began this painting. Within this context, it might be possible to conclude that the blood-like effect of the fire’s deep red reflection on the baby’s nightgown warns of their future tragedy. (Barringer, 1998, p. 91; Casteras, 1995, p. 159) In addition, the infant’s death-like pose and his or her long, white gown like a shroud, seem to suggest the extremely high infant mortality of that time. (Barringer, 1998, p. 91) It is reasonable to think that these ominous suggestions exaggerate the woman’s solitude, and at the same time, help to depict her as an ideally patient woman who is purely waiting for the safe return of her husband."