This beautiful, poignant painting shows a soldier returning to London from the horrors of the first world war, in December 1916.
The scene is the yard in front of Victoria Station. 'Beyond is the arch through which so many have left for the front and through which the fortunate return for a few days' respite'.
The war-ravaged soldier is greeted by his elderly mother and his dog. He also gets a surprise when he 'sees for the first time his sister in the garb of a bus conductress' — a role for which she would not have been considered before the war.
The artist, Fortunino Mantania, has captured the mixed emotions so well. The soldier is pleased to be back among his loved ones, but his face also bears the look of a man who has witnessed horror. His mother and sister both show pride mixed with concern.
One wonders at the kind of Christmas the family enjoyed, and the eventual fate of the homecoming soldier.
Image from The Sphere, 30 December 1916. Copyright the British Library Board, via the British Newspaper Archive.