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James Sharples' charming likeness of a teenage Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis supports the many contemporary descriptions of her which praise her beauty as well as her intelligence, wit, and artistic and musical talents. Here she is portrayed with wind-blown hair and a landscape background as if she were outdoors in a garden. Martha Washington gave this portrait of her granddaughter to a friend, Mary Lear, the mother of Tobias Lear, Washington’s secretary. Mrs. Washington and Mrs. Lear developed a closeness that certainly deepened when Frances (Fanny) Bassett, Martha Washington's niece, married Tobias Lear in 1795, and Mrs. Lear came to know Nelly Custis during extended visits to Philadelphia in the 1790s. More


c. 1796




Pastel on laid paper


Overall: 9 1/4 in. x 7 1/2 in. (23.5 cm x 19.05 cm)
Other (frame): 11 1/16 in. x 9 1/8 in. (28.1 cm x 23.18 cm)


Purchase, 1974

Object Number



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