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ARTplay: What does a portrait tell us?

Artists create portraits for many reasons. They can depict what a person looks like and also reveal their profession, status, identity. Every detail in this painting is intended to tell us that this is a young woman from a royal family. She stands between palm and laurel trees on a grassy terrace above an enclosed garden. Her dress would have been considered very fashionable in her time and is decorated with pearls, gold, and silver embroidery.


English, Active early 17th Century Portrait of a young Women, possibly of the Hampden Family, ca 1610. Gift of Miss Lucy Aldrich. Courtesy of Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design.

With your child:
Have you ever sat for a portrait? Perhaps you have had your picture taken at school. Did you do anything special to prepare?

Prepare yourself for an imaginary self-portrait. Dress up in costume. Place a mirror in front of you. Copy how you look using crayons, markers, or pencils. Will someone recognize your facial features? Will they be able to identify who you are pretending to be?

ARTplay is a monthly column from the RISD Museum of Art in which various themes and activities introduce kids and parents to the museum’s collection both online and off. Each month, Kidoinfo will help spark your children’s interest in art, encouraging them to learn about different works at the museum. To learn more about the collection or see the art in person, visit the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, located at 20 N. Main Street, Providence, RI.

All additional inquires or requests should be directed to: Denise Bastien, Collection Information and Imaging Specialist, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903. 401 454- 6528. E-mail inquires to: rightsrepro@risd.edu

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Written by Anisa Raoof