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Wheatley’s portrait, which seeks to evoke an atmosphere of domestic harmony, depicts a prosperous family in a pastoral landscape. While the two elder sons prepare to fly their kite, the infant son, still dressed in a customary frock, clings to his mother to avoid the unwanted attentions of the family dog. At the centre the standing father strikes a suitably patriarchal pose. Less harmonious is the presence of the young black servant in shadow at the extreme left. Silhouetted against the sky, his physical detachment from the main group emphasises the fact of the time, that he belongs to the group only in the sense that he is a family possession.

May 2007