A painting by the Scottish artist John Burr (1831-1893). Tinkers were originally tinsmiths or “tinners”. One of many itinerant jobs pursued by a class of casual laborers. These were mostly skilled and specialized crafts like basket making, shoe repair, leather work, and metal work but many poorer workers were migrant farm labor picking hops and tending the market gardens during the peak harvest. The fellow in the image above appears to be a fairly well-off repairman mending a seam in a pot. This from a time when new items were a rare purchase.
I love deciphering images like this for the details of domestic life. Unlike most photos, there is real intention in what the artist chose to include or not in the painting. The house is clearly a poor one but a freshly killed chicken hangs from a nail on the wall by some dry roots. A handmade broom leans against the wall next to a basket that has the tradesman’s coat lying across it. The oldest daughter tends the infant while the mother stands by the laundry basin with a toddler behind. All the children look on while the novel worker plies his trade in a waistcoat and hobnail walking shoes.