In the eighteenth century, portrait miniatures functioned as tokens of love and loss, sentiments the Washingtons knew all too well. In spring of 1772, Charles Willson Peale visited Mount Vernon to paint miniatures of Martha Washington and her children, John and Martha “Patsy” Parke Custis. Peale captured them all at the height of their youth and vitality. Just over a year later, Patsy died of an epileptic seizure at age seventeen. In a letter to Burwell Basset, Washington described his devastated wife as being in the “lowest ebb of Misery.” The miniatures, which she wore as bracelets, perhaps afforded her some comfort.






Ivory, gold, copper alloy, glass, watercolor


Overall: 2 1/8 in. x 1 11/16 in. (5.36 cm x 4.22 cm)
Other (ivory): 1 1/2 in. x 1 1/4 in. (3.81 cm x 3.1 cm)


Purchase and partial gift of an anonymous donor, 2000

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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