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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: 18th century: Matilda Davis Williams
Matilda Davis Williams

Matilda Davis Williams
about 1791-92
Christian Gullager
oil on canvas
29 5/8 x 24 3/4 in. (75.3 x 63.0 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase

Matilda Davis was the daughter of Caleb Davis, an important Boston merchant and shipowner and Speaker in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. She married Jeremiah Williams in 1787, just three years before she died at the age of twenty-two, and in this image she wears a miniature portrait of her husband. Christian Gullager created this portrait posthumously, probably from an existing painting of the young woman. He played with different textures in the detailed image, from the delicate lace of the sitter's bodice to her smooth, pale skin and shiny satin bow. Matilda appears ill at ease, as though she felt self-conscious in the elaborate gown and headdress she wore for the occasion.

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