A Girl Holding a Doll
Maker: James Peale , American, 1749 - 1831
Dimensions: 34 x 22 in. (86.4 x 55.9 cm.)
Medium: oil on canvas
Credit Line: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation
Object Number: 83.8.35
Label Text: A Girl Holding a Doll celebrates material abundance and the increasingly domesticated role of women in American society during the 19th century. Peale's anonymous subject sits in an ebonized and gilded, turned-wood chair made especially for children. Like the chair, the elaborately patterned rug, carved wooden doll, and doll's cradle indicate that the girl comes from a wealthy home. Her dress is in the latest French Empire style and her wispy hair falls loose around her face, reflecting a new emphasis on naturalism in this period. The doll, dressed in the same fashion as her owner, and the cradle foreshadow the little girl's likely future role as a wife and mother. James Peale most likely painted this portrait in Philadelphia, as it is similar to other paintings of women and girls wearing stylish neoclassical fashions and coiffures that he completed there in the first decade of the 19th century.