Ernesta (Child with Nurse)

Artist: Cecilia Beaux (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1855–1942 Gloucester, Massachusetts)

Date: 1894

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 50 1/2 x 38 1/8 in. (128.3 x 96.8 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 1965

Accession Number: 65.49


Beaux’s two-year-old niece and favorite model, Ernesta Drinker (1892–1981), clutches the hand of her nurse, Mattie, whose figure is boldly cropped at the waist. The radical composition and free brushwork reflect Beaux’s appreciation of paintings by Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Moving at her toddler’s pace across a wide expanse of polished floor, Ernesta is a spiritual descendant of Diego Velázquez’s royal children, simultaneously dignified and vulnerable. Mattie’s hand serves as a universal symbol of protection and security, and the large expanse of her apron sets the scale for the child’s diminutive figure.