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 miniature set in gold locket bracelet mount. Oval ivory ground painted in polychrome watercolors depicting sixteen year old Martha Parke Custis looking to the proper left. She wears a purple dress and a white fichu. Her jewelry includes a black beaded necklace and locket, a pearl choker, and a strand of pearls woven in her hair and topped with a diamond hair pin. The shaded blue background is lightest to the right. Lit from the left. The miniature is held within an oval bracelet setting. The portrait is protected by a scalloped and engraved gold spacer. The oval glass bezel is set into a gold frame engraved and faceted on top with an inner border of a die-rolled guilloche pattern and engraved stars on the reverse. The locket has a concave bottom and is set with two scalloped slide frames extensions flanking the image; each features nine holes from which gold chains or ribbons would be strung to secure the clasp to the wrist.

W-2355/A1 - red, leather miniature case with white satin interior, which has gold print.






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)

Credit Line

Purchase and partial gift of an anonymous donor, 2000

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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