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Girl in White Dress

ca. 1820
Origin: America
Unframed: 34 1/8 x 26 1/4in. (86.7 x 66.7cm) and Framed: 43 1/8 x 35 3/8in.
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1958.100.48
A full-length portrait of a pale blonde, blue-eyed child shown standing in an interior. The child wears red shoes and a white, off-the-shoulder dress having three tucks above the hem; its sleeves are short and ruffled. Part of a turned leg footstool (or, possibly, front of a side chair) is visible at far left in the composition; it is the only furniture in the room, which is only vaguely defined by a horizontal line separating wall from floor and by one lower corner of a window, shown at upper right in the composition. A spool of thread rests on the windowsill. A doll in a white dress sits on the stool or chair. Two tomatoes appear on the floor beneath the stool or chair. A pin cushion stuck with pins and an open book are both on the floor to the (viewer's) right of the figure. The child holds a rose bloom in its proper left hand and points to the flower with the index finger of the other hand.

Artist unidentified.

The 4 1/2-inch cove-molded stained oak frame is a modern replacement; it incorporates rope twist carving along the outer edge and a gilded liner.
Label:Black outlining of the girl's bright blue irises and upper eyelids make her eyes stand out sharply. Otherwise the figure has been treated subtly by soft delineation and modeling of form combined with a predominantly pastel palette.

Although dolls were common accessories in girls' portraits, this one is placed in an unusual position; her back to the viewer, she leans against an unseen support. The precarious posture heightens the sense of mystery generated by the pincushion, spool of thread, and tomatoes, which are rarely seen in children's likenesses and whose intended symbolism, if any, is unknown. The rose in the girl's hand apparently possessed importance, since it is centrally placed and the subject points to it with great care.
Provenance:J. Stuart Halladay and Herrel George Thomas, Sheffield, Mass. Halladay died in 1951, leaving his interest in their jointly-owned collection to his partner, Thomas. Thomas died in 1957, leaving his estate to his sister, Mrs. Albert N. Petterson, who was AARFAC's vendor.
Inscription(s):The markings on the book at the subject's feet are largely illegible, but the two words at the top of the left page appear to be "MORNG/HIMN."