“Anna Dorothea Foster and Charlotte Anna Dick” by Gilbert Stuart
Curator Allison Slaby goes inside our latest acquisition: a double portrait by the renowned painter Gilbert Stuart.
About Gilbert Stuart’s Anna Dorothea Foster and Charlotte Anna Dick: Gilbert Stuart’s double portrait of Anna Dorothea Foster and Charlotte Anna Dick is an early, important, and unusual work in his oeuvre. The painting was executed in Dublin, where Stuart lived from 1787 until 1793. His time in Dublin was preceded by twelve years in London, where he studied the works of Reynolds, Romney, and Gainsborough and assisted Benjamin West with his artistic commissions. Stuart’s painting improved immeasurably during this time, developing a sophistication that was no present in the early works executed in America. The portraits created in London and then Dublin demonstrate his remarkable ability to capture his subjects’ inner lives and to convey their personalities. He painted true likenesses, but also managed to create elegant and artful pictures that appealed greatly to his sitters.
The portrait shows Anna Dorothea Foster, the daughter of Speaker of the House John Foster, on the right, and her cousin Charlotte Anna Dick on the left. The girls dressed in similar ivory dresses in pink sashes. They bear a strong resemblance to each other, with long golden brown hair arranged in ringlets, blue eyes, and pink cheeks. Anna holds a needlework frame called a tambour and a hook for pulling the colored thread through the silk in the frame. As she was approaching her debut to society and marriageable age, this activity identifies her as a refined and accomplished young woman. Her cousin Charlotte holds a paper with the pattern for the embroidery.
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