Clues in Portraits

How can art help teach history?

A portrait is a picture of a person or group of people. Painted portraits from the past can show us what people looked like. The objects included in the portrait give us clues about the people. For example a book might mean that the person in the portrait liked to read or to learn.

Like family photos today, family portraits were popular in Vermont during the 1800s. Lester and Elvira Warren and their daughter Elsie had this portrait painted in about 1843.

Look carefully at the portrait. Think about these questions.

  1. What can you guess about the Warren family by looking at the portrait?
  2. What clues in the portrait make you think that?
  3. Why do you think the Warrens had this portrait painted?

Draw or paint your own portrait. Remember to add objects and clues about yourself. Think about what you would like someone living 100 years from now to know about you.

Activity developed by Tramia Jackson, Cooperstown Graduate Program.

Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.

Vermont Historical Society. "Clues in Portraits." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed April 20, 2021. https://vermonthistoryexplorer.org/clues-in-portraits

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