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Portrait of Elizabeth Gay Bolling (Mrs.Thomas Bolling)(1738-1813) and Her Twin Daughters, Sarah and Ann (both, 1772-1773)

1773
Origin: America, Virginia
Unframed: 40 3/8" x 30 3/8" and Framed: 46 1/4" x 36 1/2"
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mrs. Sarah G. Henry Willis in memory of Roberta Bolling Henry
Acc. No. 1995-100,A&B
A triple portrait showing a youngish woman half-length, seated, and supporting two babies on her lap. She sits in an open armchair having carved arms that, also, is upholstered in green damask and has brass tacks outlining the back. The chair is turned slightly towards the viewer's left, but the woman faces the viewer nearly full-front. She wears a bright blue square-necked gown with a large, lighter blue bow at the top of the bodice. Ruching runs down the front of the bodice and white lace ornaments the neckline. The ruffled, elbow-length sleeves are trimmed with multiple lace ruffles. The woman's hair is dark brown and adorned with pearls; her eyes blue. The babies are dressed alike, each wearing a white dress having a pleated or tucked bodice, a low, square neckline, and elbow-length sleeves. Each wears a wide pink sash at the waist and a white cap trimmed with pink ribbon. Each baby has blue eyes. Behind and above the trio, a red drapery ornamented with gold, its draw cords ending in gold tassels, is drawn up forming a billow through the top center of the composition.

The 3 1/2-inch plain, convex-molded, black-painted frame has a gold-painted liner.
Label:Thomas was the son of John Bolling Jr. and Elizabeth Blair Bolling of Virginia. In addition to the twin girls, the sitters had several other children, three of whom, born with speech and hearing impediments, were educated with a specialist at Braidwood Academy in Scotland. One of these children was instrumental in establishing a small school for the deaf in Virginia, the first school of its type in America.
These portraits are among the finest of the few known Virginia likenesses by Pratt. Others were created for the Custis, Meade, and Balfour families.
Provenance:The early part of the line of descent that follows is from James S. Patton to Pam McClellan Geddy, 7 November 1977, but it is uncertain whether its generational skips reflect reality. In short, there may have been intervening descendant-owners whose names are missing from Patton's reconstructed record:

From the subject to his wife, Mrs. Thomas Bolling (Elizabeth Gay) (1738-1813); to her granddaughter, Mrs. John H. Robertson (Jane Gay) of Port Royal, Va.; to her eldest daughter, Mrs. William Robertson (Elizabeth Bernard) of Richmond, Va.; to her son, Judge John Robertson; to his granddaughter, Mrs. Richard M. Bolling (Nannie Barksdale); sold to Mrs. Robert Malcolm Littlejohn (Rebecca Bolling)(1873-?); given to her sister, Mrs. Robert Goldsborough Henry, Sr. (Roberta Bolling)(1875-1961), whose husband (1871-1963) inherited "Myrtle Grove," Easton, Md.; to her son, Robert Goldsborough Henry, Jr. (1909-1970); to his wife, Mrs. Robert Goldsborough Henry, Jr., (Sarah M. Grace)(later, Mrs. J. McKenny Willis), who was CWF's donor.
Inscription(s):A label inscribed in blue ballpoint ink is scotch-taped to the back of the left frame member; it reads "Mrs Thomas Bolling/Elizabeth Gay by/Durand".

In pencil in script on the back of the lower frame member is "[Nv ?] 2".