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Portrait of Cynthia Mary Osborn

Date: ca. 1843
Dimensions:
frame: 58 x 36 x 3 in. (147.3 x 91.4 x 7.6 cm.)
Medium: oil on canvas
Credit Line: Jonathan and Karin Fielding Collection
Object Number: L2015.41.170
Label Text:In mid-19th-century New England, one in four children could be expected to die in infancy, and one in three before adulthood. It comes as little surprise, then, that many parents commissioned posthumous portraits to commemorate their beloved children. Of the 17 portraits attributed to Boston-based painter Samuel Miller, 14 are of children, and several contain Christian symbols of the afterlife, suggesting that they were painted posthumously, including this painting of Cynthia Osborn, who died in 1842 at the age of eight. Besides her gesture of plucking a rose (symbol of a life cut short), the presence of a goldfinch (symbol of the Resurrection), and the hoop she holds (a common toy that, in this context, may signify eternal life), Cynthia stands in front of a curious red gate, perhaps inspired by a line from Philip P. Cooke's popular poem, "Life in the Autumn Woods" (1843): "the lark at heaven's red gate / Soars joyously singing."