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Jeremiah Theus
Portrait of a Child
c. 1760
oil on canvas
Canvas: 30 1/8 × 25 inches (76.5 × 63.5 cm)Framed: 35 3/8 × 30 5/8 × 3 1/4 inches (89.9 × 77.8 × 8.3 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of the Wormsloe Foundation, Inc.
Accession Number
Swiss immigrant Jeremiah Theus spent more than thirty-four years painting genteel portraits of the planter and merchant aristocracy of colonial Charleston and became a wealthy member of that city’s society. Attentive to the social status of his patrons, Theus emphasized markers of wealth such as elaborate dress and adornments. This charming portrait displays the characteristics typical of a Theus depiction of a child: the subject has large, round eyes; a long nose; full lips; an archaic smile; hair close to the skull; and head turned three-quarters to display only one ear. The coral beads around her neck were believed to be a charm against illness and evil. The girl’s well behaved dog is likely meant to be a reflection on her character, as manuals on child rearing in the American colonies frequently advocated the training of a pet as a way to improve a child’s discipline and moral integrity.