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The Wiley Family

1771 William Williams Born: Bristol, England 1727 Died: Bristol, England 1791 oil on canvas 36 x 47 1/2 in. (91.4 x 120.7 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Diane and Norman Bernstein 2006.12.2 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, South Wing


Gallery Label

The Wiley family owned the largest distillery in New York City during the years surrounding the Revolutionary War. John Wiley, depicted in this group portrait with his mother and sisters, took over the distillery business after his father’s death and became a successful merchant in his own right, operating a fleet of commercial ships. His older sister, elegantly dressed for the occasion, holds on her arm a tame squirrel-- a symbol of her decorum and her suitability for marriage. The younger daughter, like many teenage girls, looks as though she’d rather be anywhere but with her family.  In the distance is a fanciful view of lower Manhattan.  The presentation of colonial life as prosperous and idyllic reminds us of how eager the family was to see themselves as old world aristocrats in a new world setting.         

Keywords

Architecture Exterior - detail - wall

Architecture Exterior - industry - windmill

Landscape - river

Object - flower

Object - written matter - book

Portrait group - family

Portrait male - Wiley, John - full length

painting

About William Williams

Born: Bristol, England 1727 Died: Bristol, England 1791

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