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The Contest for the Bouquet: The Family of Robert Gordon in Their New York Dining-Room, 1866

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A British-born financier, an art collector, and a founding trustee of the Metropolitan, Gordon ordered this portrait, which shows his family in their home on West Thirty-third Street. He is absent from the scene, but his presence permeates it, even in the setting: the dining room, which was considered a male domain in contrast to the more feminine space of the parlor. The oldest boy's competitive grab for the prize suggests that he will be prepared to follow in his successful father's footsteps. His sister reaches for the bouquet but observes feminine propriety. The younger boy, who has adventurously climbed on a chair, mimics his older brother. The little girl seeks safety from the commotion on her mother's lap. Frances Burton Gordon, an observant but marginal actor in the scene, signals the watchful maternal influence that was increasingly fashionable in parenting after the Civil War.