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Portrait of a Lady

ca. 1775 Unidentified (French) watercolor on ivory 2 3/8 in. (6.0 cm) diam. Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase through the Catherine Walden Myer Fund 1954.6.5 Not currently on view

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In this miniature the woman’s sparkling blue eyes draw us into the image. Her hairstyle reflects the French vogue for elaborately teased and “built-up” hair. In a letter from 1783, Thomas Jefferson noted that the simpler colonial styles made a woman’s head “as flat as a flounder.” The sitter imitated European fashions to convey her wealth and status, at a time when many colonial Americans were adopting a plainer style to express their desire for independence.


Portrait female - unidentified - bust

painting - miniature

paint - watercolor