Elijah Boardman was a wealthy Connecticut landowner, and when he commissioned a portrait of his wife and young son he picked the right artist for the job: Earl’s success stemmed from his skill at celebrating his patrons’ achievements. Material abundance is conveyed in every brushstroke. William was the first son of Mary Anna and Elijah, and went on to have a political career of his own.
Have a look also at my other post with another painting by Ralph Earl, which shows the same setting, props and floor boards as in the painting above! See this link here. It makes me wonder what the connection is between the two paintings and their sitters.
And this gentleman here is the boy’s father, Elijah Boardman, a few years earlier in 1789, also by Ralph Earl, to be seen at the MET Museum:
Earl portrayed the richly dressed dry goods merchant Elijah Boardman (1760–1823) in his store in New Milford, Connecticut. His right hand rests on a counting desk protected and decorated by green cloth secured with brass nails. The shelves of the desk house books, including Moore’s “Travels,” Shakespeare’s plays, Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” Johnson’s dictionary, and the “London Magazine” for 1786. Through the open paneled door to the right of the subject, bolts of plain and patterned textiles, including one with a prominently displayed British tax stamp, invite inspection and tell the viewer how Boardman earned a living, just as the books in his desk and the letter in his hand speak of his learning and awareness of culture. Earl also painted Esther Boardman, sister to Elijah (see my link here).