Unknown boy, perhaps Sir Frederick Augustus D'Este (1794-1848)

Portrait Miniature
1799 (painted)
Unknown boy, perhaps Sir Frederick Augustus D'Este (1794-1848) thumbnail 1
Unknown boy, perhaps Sir Frederick Augustus D'Este (1794-1848) thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This work is almost contemporary with a portrait of another boy by Thomas Hazlehurst (Museum no. Evans.133). But while in this portrait the boy wears a form of trouser suit, in the other the boy wears what appears to be a dress. The striking difference between these two images of boyhood offers a telling commentary on the slowly shifting attitudes towards children at this time.

By 1800, although little boys still wore dresses for the first years of their lives, most generally did so for less than four years. When they reached the ‘breeching’ stage, when they abandoned their dresses, they no longer graduated immediately to miniature versions of adult clothes. Instead they were invariably dressed like this boy in a so called ‘skeleton suit’. This was easy and comfortable, and as the numerous portraits of the time show, encouraged the ‘boyish’ behaviour of which this boy's pugilistic stance seems typical. Although the infant mortality rate, even among the richer classes, was still very high, the child was slowly emerging as an individual, and childhood was becoming seen as a more distinct period in life. Cosway's miniature splendidly captures this spirit.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on ivory
Brief Description
Portrait miniature of an unknown boy, perhaps Sir Frederick Augustus D'Este, dated 1799, painted on ivory by Richard Cosway (1742-1821).
Physical Description
Portrait of a boy with his sleeves pushed up and his arms crossed, standing against a sky background. He is dressed in a so-called "skeleton suit".
Dimensions
  • Height: 89mm
  • Width: 68mm
Style
Credit line
Given by Mrs Emma Joseph
Subjects depicted
Summary
This work is almost contemporary with a portrait of another boy by Thomas Hazlehurst (Museum no. Evans.133). But while in this portrait the boy wears a form of trouser suit, in the other the boy wears what appears to be a dress. The striking difference between these two images of boyhood offers a telling commentary on the slowly shifting attitudes towards children at this time.



By 1800, although little boys still wore dresses for the first years of their lives, most generally did so for less than four years. When they reached the ‘breeching’ stage, when they abandoned their dresses, they no longer graduated immediately to miniature versions of adult clothes. Instead they were invariably dressed like this boy in a so called ‘skeleton suit’. This was easy and comfortable, and as the numerous portraits of the time show, encouraged the ‘boyish’ behaviour of which this boy's pugilistic stance seems typical. Although the infant mortality rate, even among the richer classes, was still very high, the child was slowly emerging as an individual, and childhood was becoming seen as a more distinct period in life. Cosway's miniature splendidly captures this spirit.
Bibliographic Reference
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1941, London: HMSO, 1954.
Collection
Accession Number
P.7-1941

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdFebruary 25, 2003
Record URL