A: Oval, bust-length polychrome on ivory portrait of John "Jacky" Parke Custis on green-gray ground. The subject is shown 1/4 turned and gazing out toward the viewer. He has dark wavy chin-length hair with closely cropped bangs, a pensive expression and polychromatic blue and hazel eyes with white highlights which seem to reflect the light in very naturalistic fashion. Subtle shading at the chin suggests a dimple. He wears a deep royal blue coat with a large gold button, a buff waistcoat embellished with decorative floral embroidery and cloth buttons, and white lace jabot. The picture is lit from the (proper) right, and a shadow is cast across the face at (proper) left.

B: This bust-length oval miniature, painted in polychrome watercolors, depicts Martha Washington as an older woman, with a slightly furrowed brow. She wears a dark blue dress only partly visible through a sheer white lace fichu which covers her neck and chest entirely. Her white hair is shown swept up and back, revealing a high forehead, and elaborately crowned with a mob cap composed of three differentiated tiers of white lace. Mrs. Washington is shown nearly frontally, with a very slight turn to the (proper) right, and one ear visible at (proper) left. Her eyes gaze toward the (proper) left, and at close examination it is apparent they are portrayed in different colors—the eye at (proper) left has been variegated with blue, much like the eyes in the obverse portrait of Jacky Custis it is framed with. The overall painting is very fine, and the face is composed of a network of fine and cross-hatched lines, with blue shading on the (proper) left temple, and a suggestion of a double chin. The exceedingly flat chocolate-colored ground is very noticeably unvariegated and undetailed, particularly amid the expanses of white lace in the costume.

Date

A: c. 1774; B: c. 1795


People


Geography


Material/Technique

Watercolor on ivory, gold


Dimensions

Overall including clasp: 2 5/16 in. x 1 3/4 in. x 7/16" (5.72 cm x 4.45 cm x 1.11 cm)
Sight (John Parke Custis): 1 5/8 in. x 1 3/8 in.
Sight (Martha Washington): 1 6/8 in. x 1 1/2 in.


Credit

Gift of Katherine Merle-Smith Thomas, 2010


Object Number

W-4904


Colors


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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