Benjamin West (American, 17381820)
Red chalk on thin off–white laid paper, mounted on off–white laid paper; 14 5/16 x 11 9/16 in. (36.4 x 29.3 cm)
Morris K. Jesup Fund, 2002 (2002.1)
West was a prolific painter of historical scenes and a tireless draftsman, but seldom did he lavish such care on a drawing as he did here. For West, this work is unusual for its allegorical subject, Caritas (Charity), or Maternal Love, whose long tradition was briefly revived in the late eighteenth century, prompted by the popularity of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's writings on the mother's primary role in childhood education. The remarkable delicacy of both contour and modeling, as well as the thin paper bearing this image, suggest that West made the drawing as the basis for an engraving, though no corresponding print is known.