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Boy in Plaid

ca. 1845
Origin: America, New England ...
Unframed: 30 7/8 x 25 1/2in. (78.4 x 64.8cm) and Framed: 37 x 31 3/4in.
Oil on canvas
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1936.100.14
A full-length portrait of a boy seated on a low footstool that is upholstered in a busy patterned fabric of dominant gold, white, and green colors. The boy is turned 3/4 to the viewer's right, his head turned slightly towards the viewer. His feet are crossed at the ankles in front of him. In his proper right hand, he holds a child's whip, in his proper left, a rein of the bridle on a toy white rocking horse which is shown in profile behind him. The boy's dress is of a plaid fabric of dominant orange, green, and gray colors; a black belt appears at the natural waistline; the bodice tucks form a pronounced V; a white ruffled collar and black bow tie edge the neckline; and brass buttons run vertically down the front and appear on the cuffs and pocket. He also wears white pantaloons and stockings and black slippers. The boy has short, wavy, reddish, side-parted hair and green eyes. The carpet on which he poses bears a pattern of gold, black-striped squares on a gray background. A vaguely defined reddish-orange drape hangs along the left side of the composition.

Artist unidentified.

The 3 1/2-inch molded gilt frame is a period replacement supplied by The Old Print Shop, New York, NY, in 1956.

Label:This portrait’s massing of bold, different patterns and colors may seem garish and over-busy by modern standards, but Victorians would have seen no conflict in the combination of bright stripes, plaids, florals, and geometrics. The boy’s cherry red lips and shiny auburn hair convey a sense of brimming health and vitality.

A painting of a young girl, owned by the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts, bears similarities to this picture and is attributed to the same artist. Probably the two children were siblings, for the same drapery, carpet, and footstool appear in both likenesses.

Provenance:Found in Charlestown, Mass.; purchased from Bessie J. Howard, Melrose, Mass., by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who was CWF's donor.