Christoffer Vilhelm Eckersberg: Children's Clothing



Figure 1.--This detail from the portrait of the Nathanson family done in 1818 soon after Eckersberg returned to Copenhagen shows how the children were dressed. The two girls wear classical white Empire dresses and pantalettes. The todler boy wears a similar dress, but colored rather than white. The older boy wears a blue tunic with long pants that look rather like pantalettes.

The only Eckerberg image we have at this time is a wonderful portrait of the Nathanson family was done in 1818 soon after Eckersberg returned to Copenhagen. The name seems to suggest a Danish Jewish family. We are uncertain to what extent the clothing depicted represents specifically Danish clothing. We rather suspect that it is a good representation of Wester European costuming at the time showing a strong French indluence. Notice in the full painting that the father wears knee breaches. The two girls wear classical white Empire dresses and pantalettes. The todler boy wears a similar dress, but colored rather than white. The older boy wears a blue tunic with pants that look rather like pantalettes.

Nathanson Family

The only Eckerberg image we have at this time is a wonderful portrait of the Nathanson family was done in 1818 soon after Eckersberg returned to Copenhagen. The name seems to suggest a Danish Jewish family. We know nothing about the family, but they are clearly an affluent family. Perhaps the father was a wealthy merchant. Certainly they appear to be thoroughly assimilated into Danish society. A French reader tells us that the name Nathanson is not a Jewish name in Denmak and the family is well known in France. Many names from Jutland and Scadinavia in general end in "son" or "sen" (meaning son) which in earlier times were attached on to the person's first name. Thus names like Erickson or Stevenson would mean son of Erick or Stephen.

Parlor

Eckersberg not only gives us detailed drawings of the fashion, but also shows us what the parlor of the home looked liked. Notice the one girl playing the piano at the left. Most families did not educate girls like boys, but they were taught skills like music, drawing, and social dancing as well as domestic skills like sewing and embroidery. I'm not sure what the large cylindrical aparatus is at the rear. Could it be a device for making tea like a Russian samivar? The scene in the full image seems to be the children saying good night to their parents who look about to leave for the theater or other social event.

Clothing

We are uncertain to what extent the clothing depicted represents specifically Danish clothing. We rather suspect that it is a good representation of Wester European costuming at the time showing a strong French indluence. Notice the father wears knee britches. The two girls wear classical white Empire dresses and pantalettes. The todler boy wears a similar dress, but colored rather than white. The older boy wears a blue tunic with pants that look rather like pantalettes.

Younger boy

The todler boy looks to be about 3 years old. He wears a similar dress to that of his sisters, but it is colored rather than white. We know that he is a boy because of the whip he holds. Boys and girls at this age were dressed alike, but usually their toys were gender specific. He appears to be wearing white stockings. It is difficult to tell from the image, but he looks to be wearing a white petticoat rather than pantalettes. Perhaps younger children did not wear pantalettes as commonly as the older children. Here we are not quite sure.

Girls

The two girls, perhaps twins, wear classical white Empire dresses and pantalettes. The dresses are simple, almost stark in design. They have an low open neckline and then fall straight down. There is a slight difference in that one has puffed sleeves and the other has long sleeves. There are no back bows. Note that the hem of the dress is done in a pattern to match the hem of the pantalettes.

Older boy

The older boy looks to be about 6-7 years old. He wears a blue tunic with pants that look rather like pantalettes. He wears a lace collar with a neck-buttoning tunic. While it looks like a dress, it appears to be a tunic. The buttoning collar and lace collar both suggets that the garment is a tunic rather than a dress. Note that it is fron buttoning. The skeleton suit is more often depicted for boys this age in early 19th century portraits. We believe that these tunics were also widely worn, however, we have less information on them. The boy's pants are especially interesting. They look rather like plain pantalettes. Pantalettes are, however, almost always painted as white. We are not even sure if there was such a thing as colored pantalettes. He appears to be wearing pants made of the same material as the tunic. Even so there apperars to be little difference between his pants and his sisters pantalettes, exceot that they are plainer. Of course we only see the bottom part of the pants and do not know if there differences in the construction of the top part. Given the simailarities of construction, there is a fine line between pantalettes and pants. We suspect that the boys pants to be worn with a tunic were constructed rather like pantalettes, rather than the button on trousers worn with skeleton suits. This is, however, impossible to tell for sure from this image. These long pants were seen in the early 19th century as a childish garment, at least in affluent families. Long pants were worn by men and boys in poorer families. His father still wears knee breaches which by 1818 were just beginning to go out of style. (The full portrait showing the father can be seen on the main Eckersburg page).

Hair Styles

The girls and women wear long hair that is braided in a bun. The girls here have some iof their hair hang down. The toddler has naturally curly hair. The older boy has had his hair cut short.






Christopher Wagner





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Created: June 29, 2002
Last updated: June 29, 2002