Mrs. Walter Stewart (Deborah McClenachan) (1763-1823)
Artist: Charles Willson Peale, American, 1741 - 1827
Gift of Robert L. McNeil, Jr., B.S. 1936S
When Colonel Walter Stewart married eighteen-year-old Deborah McClenachan, he marked the occasion by commissioning this full-scale portrait of her, as well as portrait miniatures of the two of them, so that each may carry the image of the other. Peale shows the new bride wearing miniatures set in pearl bracelets, the one on her proper left wrist is probably a picture of her father, the one on her right, her new husband. With her arms delicately crossed, it is the latter's portrait that over-shadows the former, suggesting the new allegiance of a woman upon marriage. The Stewarts exemplified America's new aristocracy and were friends of George and Martha Washington. Peale, a leading colonial portraitist, evokes Deborah Stewart's social station through the fine miniatures, clothing and interior, while the sheets of music and instrument indicate her cultured upbringing.
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Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 2067, no. 110, ill.
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