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Offering Baby a Rose

1857

James G. Clonney (American, 1812 - 1867)

Clonney specialized in scenes of everyday life (genre). His attention to details, as seen in this work, became a hallmark of his highly popular style. This type of genre often presents a cloying sentimentality, yet Clonney avoids such by using a highly polished style and precise setting. Also, through the juxtaposition of the modern with the classical, as seen in the portrait bust atop the secretary, the dialogue between past and present is highlighted.

On a basic level, the subject matter of the painting reflects a widespread interest with roses in Victorian American and British cultures. As Queen Victoria's most prized flower, the rose and its cultivation took center stage in mid-century horticultural writings. The rose, moreover, took on specific symbolic weight. Although the exact nature of offering a rose to a baby is uncertain, it may suggest that the gift of a rose, a universal symbol of purity, to a baby might indicate the presenter's desire, here the father, to pass along virtue and purity to his progeny.

James Clonney specialized in genre painting, a form of art in which the primary subject was everyday life. Clonney’s attention to narrative details, as seen in this work, became a hallmark of his highly popular style. On a basic level, the subject matter of the painting reflects a widespread Victorian interest with roses in 19th century American and British cultures. As Queen Victoria's most prized flower, the rose and its cultivation took center stage in mid-19th century horticultural writings. Although the exact symbolic nature of the gesture of offering a rose to a baby is uncertain, it may suggest the father’s desire to pass along virtue and purity—two of the common meanings of the flower—to his child.

White this image presents a highly realized, true-to-life aesthetic, through style and subject matter, it is in fact a presentation which transcends status as a mere slice-of-life. The sitters are posed with specifically chosen props within a carefully orchestrated scene designed by the artist, the patron, or some combination of the two.

Place object was created: NY

oil paint, canvas

Measurements:    frame height: 32.5 inches    frame width: 27 inches    frame depth: 3.5 inches    height: 25 inches    width: 19 inches

Museum Purchase: Exchange Funds from the Gift of Harry and Mary Dalton 1998.20

Currently on view at Mint Museum UPTOWN