Miniature Jefferson Gauntt Painting Two children Antebellum period Folk art
Antebellum literally means “before the war,” and it refers to the time before the Civil War. During this era, Southern plantation owners and merchants profited from fertile land, cheap labor, and prosperous trade. A wealthier economy promoted a common focus on the importance of one’s social status. Prior to the era of photography, the physical appearance and social status of a person or a family could be forever memorialized in painted form. As a result, portraits became the most popular forms of artwork among those who could afford to pay for them.
In the 1820's there was a decline of sibling affection shown in portraits. If it was done, it was generally between an older sibling ( as in this painting ) and an younger one. These signs of affection you see in this portrait were far and few between.
In the early nineteenth century, the out-of-doors was considered a male domain, and girls were generally depicted in domestic settings. By 1831, however, Lydia Child argued in "The Mother's Book" that girls as well as boys would benefit from open air and should be allowed to play outside.
Jefferson Gauntt seems to have taken such assertions to heart and painted all his known portraits of children in outdoor settings.. "Two Children" is one of the most charming of the portraits of children for which he became known and was originally painted in 1843.
Although sister and brother wear similar dresses, there are differences: the girl's pantaloons have more lace than her brother's, and his costume is decorated with buttons, a type of ornamentation more characteristically male. Although boys were more commonly shown with dogs, the brother holds a cat. The girl carries a typically feminine bouquet of flowers and affectionately drapes a protective arm over her brother's shoulders.
This miniature 7x8 3/4" reproduction on real canvas ( see closeup) was from one of the largest doll collectors in florida who has since passed. This is one of two from her estate and I hope that it gets a home as loving and as wonderful as she was.
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