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Deborah Hall

William Williams

American Art

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.


El retrato de Deborah Hall a los dieciséis años demuestra el rico y multifacético lenguaje simbólico a disposición de los retratistas en la América británica. William Williams retrató a su joven modelo de pie en un paisaje ficticio cuidadosamente diseñado, junto a una escultura en relieve de Apolo y Dafne, quien evitó los inoportunos avances del dios convirtiéndose en un árbol de laurel. Este detalle alude tanto a la castidad de la modelo como a su educación liberal y a su crianza refinada. Su vestido rosa, conocido como “bata abierta,” no sólo atestigua su estilo au courant, sino que actúa también como indicador inequívoco de la riqueza de su familia y de su estatus social.

MEDIUM Oil on canvas
DATES 1766
DIMENSIONS 71 3/8 x 46 3/8 in. (181.3 x 117.8 cm) frame: 78 1/2 x 53 1/4 x 2 1/2 in. (199.4 x 135.3 x 6.4 cm)  (show scale)
SIGNATURE Signed lower left: "Wm. Williams 1766"
COLLECTIONS American Art
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
ACCESSION NUMBER 42.45
CREDIT LINE Dick S. Ramsay Fund
RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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CAPTION William Williams (American, 1727-1791, active in America 1746-1776). Deborah Hall, 1766. Oil on canvas, 71 3/8 x 46 3/8 in. (181.3 x 117.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 42.45
IMAGE overall, 42.45_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (91%)
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