Oliver Tarbell Eddy
Portrait of the Four Youngest Children of William Rankin, Sr., 1838
Oil on canvas
Bequest of Dr. Walter M. Rankin 1947
Why was this painting made?
It was probably made to commemorate the recent death of Matilda, shown seated, the youngest daughter of William Rankin, whose portrait hangs to the right. The picture also records the likenesses of the other children still living at home.
What in the painting refers to Matilda's death?
The storm clouds through the window and the geranium in the upper left corner are 19th-century symbols of mourning. The bouquet of flowers pointing downward that Matilda holds refers to an innocent life cut short by death.
Why is there a hat on the table?
Some scholars think the hat represents Rankin's successful hat manufacturing business in Newark. Others believe it refers to the children growing up and going out into the threatening world of adulthood.