Object Image

Portrait of a Boy

Standing on the porch, dressed in his Sunday best and holding his hat, this boy looks as if he's about to leave home. He already has. During the 1800s, to ease the grief caused by a family member's death, it was customary to observe mourning rituals. These included marking anniversaries of the death by formally viewing a portrait of the deceased. From the traditional mourning colors of red, white, and black, the keepsake book, and the threatening sky, we know this painting served that purpose. The fast-fading roses symbolize the briefness of life, and the clinging honeysuckle vine represents the attachment of the living to the dead.

Credit: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Butler ...
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Oil on canvas
48.2 x 35.2in
Image and text courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2022

Where you'll find this

Minneapolis Institute of Art
Permanent collection