Francis Malbone and his Brother Saunders
Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828
91.44 x 111.76 cm (36 x 44 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Marilyn and John F. Keane Family Gallery (Gallery 127)
Gilbert Stuart completed this portrait of the Malbone brothers early in his career. Although he had had little formal training, Stuart seems to have studied the work of John Singleton Copley and learned to render the fine furniture and apparel that were indicative of social status. He portrayed the brothers as future businessmen, wearing stylish, well-tailored frock coats made of expensive fabrics with covered buttons. Francis, about fourteen years old, on the left, wears a fashionable frilled shirt, the neckcloth held in place by a twisted heart brooch—popular in the colonies at the time—and Saunders, about nine years old, sports a black ribbon tie. On the table between them are an elaborate ink well, paper, quill pen, and several books, advertising their potential as successful men of affairs. While Stuart imparted some youthful softness to their faces, he emphasized their maturity, showing them as intelligent, thoughtful, and serious. As predicted by this portrait, Francis and Saunders became prominent merchants, and Francis was later elected to the United States Senate.
This text was adapted from Carol Troyen and Janet L. Comey, Amerika kaiga kodomo no sekai link, exh. cat. (Nagoya, Japan: Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 2007).