John Mix Stanley (American, 18141872)
Oil on canvas; 27 x 22 in. (68.6 x 55.9 cm)
Gift of George H. Danforth III, 1976 (1976.338)
Although in the nineteenth century, garments for boys and girls were linguistically indistinguishable, portraits of children used various strategies to distinguish gender. Most frequently, male children were depicted with stereotypically masculine props, alluding to future careers or innate masculine virtues. These included drums or trumpets, faithful dogs or wooden swords, hobbyhorses or crops.
The child in this family portrait, John W. Aymar Williamson (18411917), wears a delicate embroidered eyelet dress, now in the collection of the Costume Institute (1976.363).