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English, active 1798 - 1830
Elizabeth Mary and Augustus William Hillary
Watercolor on ivory, 9k rose gold, paper, and glass

4 x 2 3/4 inches (10.2 x 7 cm)

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The MFAH, The Rienzi Collection, bequest of Caroline A. Ross


An inscription on a slip of paper found behind J. T. Mitchell´s sweet portrait of two young children identifies the sitters as the twins Elizabeth Mary and Augustus William Hillary.

As was typical for the time, the twins are depicted wearing almost identical clothing--long muslin dresses with blue ribbon sashes.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, both boys and girls wore skirts until male children were “breeched,” or given trousers to wear, at some point between the ages of 4 and 6.  The artist has taken care to distinguish their genders: Elizabeth, her head covered by a lace bonnet, cradles a fluffy lapdog in her arms while Augustus gathers his sister in a protective embrace.  The miniature’s excellent state preserves the original coloration of the children’s rosy cheeks and dramatic blue background.