Hillaire Belloc’s cautionary verses, published in 1867, features Rebecca who is squashed to death by a marble bust; it falls on her head because she won’t stop slamming doors.

These humorous and often nonsensical rhymes make fun of the cautionary Victorian books which preach and warn of the nasty ends children will come to if they disregard their parents’ wishes. The hypocrisy and pettiness of the adult world is highlighted by the ridiculousness of her fate. Belloc uses this humour as a mechanism to mock the vices and follies of the world.

As Rebecca is depicted holding onto one of the busts that eventually falls on her the painting is a ‘memento mori’: reflecting on mortality, the vanity of earthly life, and the transient nature of worldly goods and pursuits. She is described as a wealthy, ‘wild’ girl who ‘was not really bad at heart,’ so we see her surrounded by classical sculptures that are evidence of this affluent background: the weight of which literally and metaphorically crushes her.


Oil on canvas
Width 122cm
Height 152cm

Based on Hillaire Belloc's cautionary verse - see below image for text.