In the early 19th century, childhood began to be perceived as a time of innocence, and children as something different from miniature adults. Robert and Elizabeth Gilcrest were painted by the Charleston portraitist George Cook (1793-1849) in 1836 when Robert was seven, and his sister only five. Their charming portrait shows Robert drawing a sketch in one of his father's law books. A generation earlier, such a childish deed would have been punished, not immortalized in a portrait.
Courtesy of the Gibbes Museum of Art/Carolina Art Association.