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Child with Hoop

ca. 1850
Origin: America
Unframed: 36 x 26 1/2in. (91.4 x 67.3cm) and Framed: 43 x 34 1/8in.
Oil on canvas
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1936.100.2
Oil portrait of a young child standing full-length against a black background. The background reveals hints of architectural structures, an archway to the left and a corner to the right which were apparently part of an early picture and painted out. The child is almost like a paper doll silhouette against the background. He or she holds a yellow hoop in the left hand with the black stick in the right. A brown longhaired dog lies to the right at the child's feet. The child has brown hair with hints of yellow parted in the center and dressed in long ringlets. The jacket is black with two rows of buttons in a V shape and the sleeves reach below the elbows with white muslin undersleeve showing. White lace in a zigzag pattern is at the collar with a tiny oval gold pin in center of the collar. The child's eyes are blue and the skin is almost deadly white. The child wears a plaid skirt of greens and whites, with diagonal pockets(?) with yellowish buttons on them. The skirt is very full (probably has hoops under it) and reaches the knees. Two large blue green tassles hang from the waistline reaching below the hem. The child's legs are covered to the knee with white stockings with red and black patterned designs on them and red stockings cover the legs above the knees. The child has extremely small feet encased in white shoes. He or she wears a gold ring on the third finger of the left hand. The neat patterns of the costume give the painting vibrancy and life, the facial expression is dead, and the features are merely outlines. The arms and legs are simple forms, and the hands are very poorly drawn.
Label:Chances are the child shown here is a boy rather than a girl. During the mid 19th century, very young boys and girls wore similar attire and hairstyles. The diagonally placed rows of skirt trim and jacket buttons on this child’s clothing evoke a "military look" that was more appropriate for boys. Godey’s Magazine from 1856 describes aspects of this likeness well: "(Toy) hoops seeming to be the order of the day with artists drawing spring fashions for the juveniles as well as with ladies, we present a corresponding costume for a boy, same age--short pantalettes, square neck, hair in side curls, plaid dress and hoop."

The background of this painting reveals hints of an archway to the left and a building corner to the right. Part of an early version of the picture, both were painted out by the artist. X-ray analysis also suggests he or she struggled with placement of the figure, ornamentation, and costume design.
Provenance:Early records of Mrs. Rockefeller's state that the painting came "from the Browne family of Watertown, Mass."; Katrina Kipper, Accord, Mass. Given to C. W. by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Mark(s):The name "Morse" is recorded as having been written in ink on the original top stretcher and on the reverse of the canvas. "N Becket" is lettered in chalk along the right side of the back of the frame.