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Loan Object
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Photo Credit: Christopher Gardner
Photo credit: Christopher Gardner
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Photo Credit: Christopher Gardner
Photo credit: Christopher Gardner
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Photo Credit: Christopher Gardner
Photo credit: Christopher Gardner
Artist: Unknown

Memorial for S. C. Washington

ca. 1789

Watercolor, chopped hair, gold wire, pearls, and applied ivory on ivory

1 1/16 × 11/16 in. (2.7 × 1.7 cm)
Promised bequest of Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch and Alvin Deutsch, LL.B. 1958, in honor of Kathleen Luhrs
ILE1999.3.18

This mourning miniature of a deceased teenaged girl breaking through an obelisk to reunite with her distraught mother encapsulates the ultimate purpose of all miniatures, which is to hold onto the beloved. More than any other token of the time, the mourning miniature expressed the universal longing to keep the dead within the circle of the living. The evergreens pictured in the background reinforce the idea of eternal life. Their dark foliage symbolizes death, but their upward thrustlike the pyramid shape of the obelisk in the foregroundconnotes hope, their greenery everlasting. The reverse of the locket bears an engraved dedication to S. C. Washington, who died at age nineteen in 1789. Inside the locket, a piece of cut paper attached to the back of the ivory contains a tiny remnant of a note, probably from the family who mourned her, instructing the artist on how they wanted their daughter memorialized. The powerful imagery they chose underscores the family’s desire for reunion with their lost loved one, evidence of a shift in attitudes in the late eighteenth century toward the finality of death.

Geography: 
Probably made in United States
Status: 
Not on view
Period: 
18th century
Classification: 
Miniatures - Jewelry
Provenance: 

Ares Antiques, Inc.; Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch and Alvin Deutsch, LL.B. 1958, New York, by promised bequest

Bibliography: 

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 70, pl. 48.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.