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Mrs. Elijah Boardman and her Son, William Whiting Boardman

Date: ca. 1796
Dimensions:
85 1/4 x 56 1/2 in. (216.5 x 143.5 cm.)
frame: 91 3/4 x 65 5/8 x 2 in. (233 x 166.7 x 5.1 cm.)
Medium: oil on canvas
Credit Line: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation
Object Number: 83.8.15
Label Text:Elijah Boardman, a wealthy merchant and landowner, married Mary Anna Whiting in 1792. Following the birth of their child William in 1794, Boardman commissioned Ralph Earl to portray his wife and son in their home in New Milford, Connecticut.

The portrait celebrates domestic happiness
and material abundance. Mrs. Boardman wears a fashionable silk dress. William holds a silver "coral and bells," a christening gift that served as rattle, whistle, teething aid, and amulet to ward off evil spirits.

Earl began painting portraits in Connecticut in 1774. Loyal to the British during the Revolution, he fled to London in 1778 and studied in Benjamin West's studio. In 1785 Earl returned to the United States, served two years in debtors' prison, and resumed a thriving career in Connecticut in 1788. Earl's success stemmed from his skill at celebrating his patrons' achievements.