16-year-old Deborah Hall ~ 1766


Deborah Hall by William Williams ~ 1766

The portrait of sixteen-year-old Deborah Hall demonstrates the rich and multilayered language of symbols at the disposal of portraitists in British America. William Williams portrayed his young subject in a fictional, carefully designed landscape standing alongside a relief sculpture of Apollo and Daphne, who escaped the god’s unwelcome advances by turning into a laurel tree. This detail refers to both the sitter’s chastity and her liberal education and refined upbringing. The sitter’s rose-colored dress, known as an “open robe,” not only attests to her au courant style but also acts as an unmistakable signifier of her family’s wealth and social status.

Via: Brooklyn Museum

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