Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: E. W. Blake (United States, mid-19th Century)

Figure 1.--E. W. Blake painted this portrait of a 3 year-old Massachusetts boy about 1846. He wears a tunic, ruffled collar, and pantalettes.


I have virtually no information on E. W. Blake. He was one of a group of American primitives who worked in the Prior-Hamblin style, including William M. Prior, Sturtevant J. Hamblin, William E. Kennedy, and George Hartwell.

The Portrait

Blake's portrait here is of Charles William Poor who was 3 and years old when he was painted about 1846. Charles was the son of Benjamin H. and Sarah Poor (Garland). Charles was born in 1843. His parents were married in Newburyport, Massachusetts on January 22, 1840. A similar portrait by Blake was done of Leroy G. Darling.

The Fashions

Charles in the Blake portrait appears to be wearing a front buttoning black tunic. He wears an open necked blouse with a comfortable-looking ruffled collar. There is no visible design elements on the tunic. There is a narrow vertical front opening showing a narrow sliver of the blouse below the collar.

Charles wears plain white pantalettes with his tunic. There are no fancy lace or ruffle work on the pantalettes and they were probably referred to as drawers. The primitive nature of the portrait make the pantalettes to look like trousers. Given the age of the boy, however, he would be unlikely to have worn adult trousers. Also trousers were not commonly available in white. Other portraits of the time and by the 1840s photographs show much fancier pantalettes. See for example: Joseph Whiting Stock or the pantalettes page.


A good source of information on this school of American primitive artists is available in Nina Fletcher Little, "William Matthew Prior and some of his contemporaries," The Maine Antiques Digest April, 1976, illustrated, p. 21A.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: June 23, 1999
Spell checked: July 30, 1999
Last updated: July 30, 1999