Figure 1.--E. W. Blake painted this portrait of a 3 ½ year-old Massachusetts boy about 1846. He wears a tunic, ruffled collar, and pantalettes.
I have virtually no information on E. W. Blake. He was one of a group of American
primitives who worked in the Prior-Hamblin style, including William
M. Prior, Sturtevant J. Hamblin, William E. Kennedy, and George
Blake's portrait here is of Charles William Poor who was 3 and
½ years old when he was painted about 1846. Charles was the son of
Benjamin H. and Sarah Poor (Garland). Charles was born in 1843.
His parents were married in Newburyport, Massachusetts on January
22, 1840. A similar portrait by Blake was done of Leroy G.
Charles in the Blake portrait appears to be wearing a front
buttoning black tunic. He wears an open necked blouse with
a comfortable-looking ruffled collar. There is no visible design
elements on the tunic. There is a narrow vertical front opening showing
a narrow sliver of the blouse below the collar.
Charles wears plain white pantalettes with his tunic. There are
no fancy lace or ruffle work on the pantalettes and they were
probably referred to as drawers. The primitive nature of the portrait
make the pantalettes to look like trousers. Given the age of the
boy, however, he would be unlikely to have worn adult trousers.
Also trousers were not commonly available in white. Other portraits of the
time and by the 1840s photographs show much fancier pantalettes. See for
example: Joseph Whiting Stock or the
A good source of information on this school of American primitive artists
is available in Nina Fletcher Little, "William Matthew Prior and
some of his contemporaries," The Maine Antiques Digest
April, 1976, illustrated, p. 21A.
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