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Two Children

ca. 1810
Origin: America
Unframed: 18 5/8 x 22in. (47.3 x 55.9cm) and Framed: 22 1/2 x 25 5/8in.
Oil on white pine panel
From the collection of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller; gift of the Museum of Modern Art
Acc. No. 1954.100.2
A horizontal format, nearly full-length portrait of two, seated, brown-eyed children, the smaller on the larger's lap. Both children wear white, short-sleeved dresses. The larger child has short, dark brown hair combed towards her face, with slightly longer curled ringlets over her forehead; a black and gold locket is suspended around the child's neck by two chains. Part of one red slipper is visible beneath her dress's hem. The dress of the smaller child bears pink bows on its sleeves; the child's white cap is also ornamented with pink bows. The larger child sits on a scrolled-arm bench or chair, of which only part of one arm is visible. The children sit near an open doorway, the four-paneled door opening into the room whose floor is either carpeted or painted in a repeat quatrafoil pattern in reds and greens. Outdie, beyond the children and the room's threshhold, grass is visible in front of a steep, brown hill, with trees lining its crest. A white-clouded sky occupies the upper left corner ot the composition.

Artist unidentified.

The 2 1/4-inch molded, mahogany-veneered frame has molded inner edges and square corner blocks and is original.


Label:This portrait is unusual in several respects, including placement of the two subjects in the right half of a pronounced compositional triangle, in this case, one formed by the threshold of the door, the hill outside, and the shadow that falls diagonally across the door. The dramatic design focuses attention on the two youngsters, as does the contrast between their pale skin and dresses and the dominant browns and greens of the setting. The darkened room, open door, and temporarily-placed bench or chair create an air of mystery, suggesting that the children yearn to go outside—but cannot. The device of one child holding another clearly conveys sibling affection.

The painting was found in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in the early 1930s, but no other portraits stylistically associated with it have been found as yet.
Provenance:Found in Bucks County, Pa., by Dorothy C. Miller on behalf of Edith Gregor Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York, NY; purchased from the latter by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller on 5 March 1933; given by the latter to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, in 1939; given by MoMA to CWF in June 1954.