Following the death of John Parke Custis in November 1781 Eleanor Calvert Custis and her four young children moved in with her in-laws, the Washingtons. Eleanor had married young, and still retained a great deal of beauty and charm, as shown in this 1782 portrait miniature. It was perhaps this pleasing countenance that captured the attention of David Stuart, who had recently set up his medical practice in Alexandria, Virginia. The two were wed late the following year. Stuart became a trusted friend and advisor to George Washington.


Oval miniature case covered in red leather; the two part case is joined at the right side by a metal hinge set into a raised wall, the case lid fits snugly over the base when closed, resulting in a matched profile, the case is secured closed by the use of two copper alloy hooks mounted on the base that cradle two hook eyes set into the lid; the exterior is polished, and decorated with a scored line running long the outer perimeter of the top and bottom shoulders; the interior is lined in a pink silk wrapped around a laminated board substrate, the edge is finished with a white trim; nestled into the lid and base are two silk pillows, the top pillow is inscribed in black ink: "My beloved and / excellent Mother / Mrs. Stuart. This / miniature taken / when the widow / Custis aged 24." It continues on the silken interior of the back cover of the case: "Her maiden name / Calvert, charged who / ever may possess it / to preserve it."





Copper alloy, silk, leather, paper


Other (case open): 2 3/8 in. × 3 7/8 in. × 1/4 in. (6.03 cm × 9.84 cm × 0.64 cm)
Other (case closed): 2 3/8 in. × 1 15/16 in. × 1/2 in. (6.03 cm × 4.92 cm × 1.27 cm)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds donated by Ms. Jeanne M. Defliese and CAPT James D. Huck, USN, 2008

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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