A model of genetic variation of a quantitative character subject to the simultaneous effects of mutation, selection and drift is investigated. Predictions are obtained for the variance of the genetic variance among independent lines at equilibrium with stabilizing selection. These indicate that the coefficient of variation of the genetic variance among lines is relatively insensitive to the strength of stabilizing selection on the character. The effects on the genetic variance of a change of mode of selection from stabilizing to directional selection are investigated. This is intended to model directional selection of a character in a sample of individuals from a natural or long-established cage population. The pattern of change of variance from directional selection is strongly influenced by the strengths of selection at individual loci in relation to effective population size before and after the change of regime. Patterns of change of variance and selection responses from Monte Carlo simulation are compared to selection responses observed in experiments. These indicate that changes in variance with directional selection are not very different from those due to drift alone in the experiments, and do not necessarily give information on the presence of stabilizing selection or its strength.