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Matthias and Thomas Bordley

1767 Charles Willson Peale Born: Maryland 1741 Died: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1827 watercolor on ivory 3 5/8 x 4 1/8 in. (9.2 x 10.5 cm) oval Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase and gift of Mr. and Mrs. Murray Lloyd Goldsborough, Jr. 1974.113 Not currently on view


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Charles Willson Peale’s tender portrait of Matthias and Thomas Bordley presents the young sons of John Beale Bordley, Peale’s early patron. This oval miniature is a reminder that such keepsakes were often painted to comfort the owner in the absence of the people portrayed. Bordley’s sons had just arrived in London to be educated at Eton, under the watchful eye of a family friend. Here, Peale shows them with a bust of Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom, with a view of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background. Bordley had paid to send Peale to study in England, and during this trip the artist painted this miniature to give to the boys’ parents in Maryland. An inscription on the back indicates that Matthias was nine and his brother Thomas twelve years old when this was painted. Although Matthias would live to adulthood, Thomas died in England of tuberculosis in 1771.

Keywords

Children

Object - art object - sculpture

Object - written matter - book

Portrait group - family - siblings

Portrait male - Bordley, Matthias - waist length

Portrait male - Bordley, Thomas - waist length

Recreation - leisure - reading

painting - miniature

paint - watercolor

ivory