This sensitive depiction of his children exhibits Jean-Antoine Laurent's ability to portray the psychological interiority of his subjects, young or old. Laurent painted at least two other miniatures of his four children, both of which were exhibited at the Salon in Paris in 1804 and titled "Love in a Rose" and "Love in a Crystal Cup". Soon after, the artist turned from miniatures to oil painting, but he may have continued making portraits of his family for his own pleasure.
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. The school of thought characterized childhood as a period of innocence distinct from adulthood, 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.
Although this miniature has previously been described as depicting Laurent's daughters, it likely portrays the artist's eldest daughter and son. The younger sibling closely resembles Laurent's son Paul, who is shown riding a horse in the Musée Cognacq-Jay's miniature "Le Peintre et sa Famille, Devant une Maison de Champagne" (1797-98). Additionally, Laurent's second daughter was not born until after 1800, so the stylistic dating of this miniature to around 1795 suggests that the sitters should be identified as Emma, the eldest daughter, and Paul, the eldest son, who was born in 1794.
This miniature is set into a gold bezel for use on the lid of a bonbonniere, or candy box.
Ashley Bartman (May 2014)