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Portrait of a Gentleman

ca. 1840 Unidentified watercolor on ivory sight 2 1/4 x 1 3/4 in. (5.7 x 4.4 cm) oval Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Mrs. Henry L. Milmore through Mr. Henry L. Milmore 1956.6.60 Not currently on view

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In the first decades of the nineteenth century, Roman artworks became fashionable among Americans. Men like this sitter imitated the short, combed-over hairstyles of ancient portrait busts. Beards, however, did not become widely accepted until the 1840s. Joseph Palmer, of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, wore a beard in 1830 and was publicly criticized for what was then considered a violation of propriety. His church refused him Communion, and four men even attacked him to try and shave off the beard in the interests of “morality.” By 1845, beards were seen as a mark of masculinity.


Portrait male - unidentified - bust

painting - miniature

paint - watercolor