This unusual miniature may be a romantic allegory, of the kind exchanged during the late 18th and early 19th century to commemorate secret love. Yet the remarkable intimacy in this scene is not between the male and female figures. Rather it is between the woman and her dog, who appear to be gazing intently into each other’s eyes. A dog is a widely utilized symbol of fidelity, and images of women with dogs are rather common, yet this is an exceptional image. The reference here may be to the literary figure of Maria, a minor yet celebrated character who appears with her dog Sylvio in two of Laurence Sterne’s novels, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. The latter was published in 1768, and widely known, including in America. Maria’s melancholy figure quickly became a frequent subject for artists. More





Watercolor on ivory, gold alloy, glass. Case: leather


Overall (Miniature): 1 7/8 in. × 1 5/16 in. (4.76 cm × 3.33 cm)
Other (Case): 2 5/8 in. × 1 3/4 in. (6.67 cm × 4.45 cm)


Gift of Katherine Merle-Smith Thomas, 2010


On interior of case, on green leather, left to right, (ink?): 50 cr(?) or cs(?).

Object Number



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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