This image of a young boy has been attributed to the artist Milton Hopkins, who painted portraits in New York State and Ohio during the first half of the nineteenth century. We know little about the sitter, Samuel Holland, because there were several people of the same name living in the United States at that time. The artist painted a whip to show that the child was male, a necessary symbol in a period when boys wore skirts until they were five or six. The boy gazes directly at the viewer with large dark eyes that stand out against his pale skin and fair hair, and his fancy costume suggests he was a member of a wealthy household. Early in the nineteenth century, children often died in infancy, and parents commissioned portraits of their sons and daughters as keepsakes.
Credit Line: Text courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.