This double portrait of sisters not only illustrates the romanticized style of mid-19th-century painting, but also relates to Washington D.C., history through family, artist and architectural associations. Estelle Frances Tayloe (1833-1867) and Eugenia Phoebe Tayloe (1835-1913) were the daughters of Benjamin Ogle Tayloe and his first wife, Julia Marie Dickinson. Both girls display the rosy cheeks, tumbling curls and sweet smiles of idealized girlhood. Eugenia holds her little black dog while her older sister Estelle places a protective arm around her. The unsigned painting is attributed to the artist Charles Bird King because of his signed portraits of the Tayloe parents and grandparents.
The girls' grandparents, Colonel John Tayloe and Ann Ogle Tayloe, owned the historic Octagon mansion, a well-known Washington landmark. (For more on the Octagon, see this issue's Historic Home story.) Another family residence, the Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House built by their father at 21 Madison Place, across from the White House, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Charles Bird King lived and worked in Washington from about 1819 until his death in 1862. He painted hundreds of portraits of famous and prominent residents. However, he gained lasting fame from more than 100 portraits he painted of American Indian delegates invited to the capital by the U.S. government during the years 1822-1842.
This painting was a gift of past Curator General Rolfe Towle Teague.