Catherina Elmendorf

Artist: Unknown Artist

Date: 1752

Geography: Made in United States

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 50 x 40 in. (127 x 101.6 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of Katharine H. Aldrich, 2006

Accession Number: 2006.418


Catherina Elmendorf was born in Kingston, in Ulster County, New York, in 1747, the daughter of Petrus Edmundus Elmendorf (1715–1765) and Mary Crooke (b. 1721). She was five years old when she sat for her portrait. This painting bears all the principal hallmarks of mid-eighteenth-century portraiture in upstate New York: strong colors, meticulous detailing, and the general influence of earlier Dutch portraits. Yet the as yet unnamed limner was even more exacting than most. He carefully rendered Catherina's ribbon-trimmed lace cap, her double-strand pearl necklace with a larger pearl at the center, and the leaf-and-web lace stomacher that gives her little-girl dress the look of a woman's open gown. Catherina's left hand is cupped upward in the codified gesture of receiving a friend or a gift, and the blue and white footed and two-handled cup on the table beside her is filled with parrot tulips, carnations, and roses, the exotic flowers in a special vase testifying to her family's prosperity and high station in the community. In 1769, Catherina doubled her good fortune by marrying Rutger Bleecker (1745–1787), with whom she had six children.