Death Portrait of Charlotta Richardson

Image of Death Portrait of Charlotta Richardson
by Edward Richardson Jr., watercolor on cardboard, ca. 1842

Today in the United States, many people feel very uncomfortable looking at a death portrait. However, in earlier times, it was an accepted means of remembering and memorializing someone who had died. In the 19th century, many families lost children to accident and disease. Before photography was invented, making an art image was one of the few ways by which a family could remember how a loved one looked.

Edward Richardson Jr.'s younger sister, Charlotta, died in 1842 at the age of four due to a bacterial infection. Teen-aged Edward Jr. lovingly painted his sister's portrait as if she were sleeping. The Richardson family brought this portrait with them from England when they immigrated to Illinois in 1850. It was handed down through the family for three generations.

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