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Portrait of Louisa Airey Gilmor (Mrs. Robert Gilmor) (1745-1827) and Her Daughters, Jane (1780-1804) and Elizabeth (1779-after 1848)

1788
Origin: America, Maryland, Baltimore
Other (unframed): 36 x 29in. (91.4 x 73.7cm) Framed: 40 1/4 x 33 5/16 x 1 1/2in.
Oil on canvas
Bequest of Mary Mercer Carter Stewart Vivian
Acc. No. 1967-364,A&B
A triple, three-quarter-length portrait of a woman and two girls, ostensibly a mother and daughters. The woman is seated in an open-back side chair, while the two girls are shown standing to her proper left, the shorter of the two girls closest to the woman. Both girls have long reddish-blonde hair, the shorter holds a doll in her proper right hand, the taller girls places her proper left hand on a brown, leather-covered book resting in the woman's lap. The woman looks out at the viewer, the two girls aside.

There is doubt about whether the 2 3/8-inch gilded frame is original. In the object file for 1967-365, see extensive emails from Lance Humphries and Chris Swan during April-May 2012. The frame is cove molded with stick-and-ribbon ornament at the sight edge and stylized acanthus leaf decoration along the outer quarter-round edge. The mitre joints are secured via corner splines, and two brass hanging rings are affixed to the back of the top edge, each with two screws.
Label:Nine-year-old Elizabeth Gilmor stands with her mother and sister. Young Jane holds her fashionably dressed doll, while Elizabeth has her hand on “Children’s Friend,” a volume of morally instructive short stories. The book highlights the parents’ concern for their girls’ education and may reflect Mrs. Gilmor’s religious upbringing.

Baltimore merchant Robert Gilmor, Sr. commissioned preeminent artist Charles Willson Peale to paint portraits of himself and his wife and daughters. Already known for his numerous likenesses of George Washington, Peale visited Baltimore from his home in Philadelphia. The receipt for this painting survives and shows that the artist finished both works in January 1788 at the cost of about 31 pounds. Years later, Gilmor bequeathed to Elizabeth, "the Portraits of her mother and myself Painted by Peale.”

Provenance:From the husband/father of the subjects, Robert Gilmor, Sr., to his daughter, Mrs. John Sherlock (Elizabeth Gilmor)(1779-after 1848); to her daughter, Mrs. Thomas Swann (Elizabeth Gilmor Sherlock)(1813-1876); to her daughter, Mrs. Charles Carter (Mary Mercer Swann)(1845-1931); to her daughter, Mrs. William Stewart (Anne Page Carter)(1876-1945); to her daughter, Mrs. Leslie Vivian (Mary Mercer Carter Stewart)(1896-1967), who was CWF's source.
Inscription(s):The portrait is signed and dated along the lower left side, "C WPeale/pinx 1788". (Many older file documents transcribe the date as "1785.") Sellers ("Bibliography"), p. 87, stated that, in his will of January 31, 1819, Robert Gilmor described acc. nos. 1967-364 and -365 as "Painted by Peale in 1786". Peale's receipt for thirty guineas payment-in-full for the companion paintings exists and is dated January 10, 1788.

The spine of the book is inscribed indistinctly; a combination of legible and conjectural letters leads to the reading, "CHILDRENS FRIEND", presumably referencing Arnaud Berquin's book, THE CHILDREN'S FRIEND, translated from the French AMI DES ENFANTS and first published in England in 1783. (See 2001 files notes regarding research by Leslie Reinhardt).