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Portrait of the Artist's Children Emma and Paul

Portrait of the Artist's Children Emma and Paul

c. 1795

Jean-Antoine Laurent

(French, 1763-1832)

France, 18th century

Watercolor on ivory, gold mount, set in the cover of a composition bonbonniere

Diameter: 6.3 cm (2 1/2 in.)

Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 2012.56


This sensitive depiction of his children exhibits Laurent's ability to portray the psychological interiority of his subjects, young or old. The miniature shows Laurent's son and daughter in white chemise gowns with green ribbon accents. They both have striking blue eyes and slightly curled blond hair. The younger sibling tenderly holds the arm of the older one, who sits on a chair strewn with pink rose petals and inscribed with the artist's signature. The children are placed within an environment in which green foliage sprouts small blue and purple flowers. This organic setting reflects 18th-century Western philosophies of natural child rearing, characterized by treating childhood as a period of innocence distinct from adulthood and advocating that children not be treated as miniature adults but instead should have their naiveté celebrated. This philosophy influenced children's clothing. Instead of dressing children as small adults in constrictive costumes, both genders wore loose chemises, like the ones seen here, that encouraged mobility.

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