Charles Cromwell Ingham (American (born Ireland), Dublin 1786–1863 New York)
Oil on canvas
36 x 28 3/8 in. (91.4 x 72.1 cm)
Gift of William Church Osborn, 1902
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 756
"The Flower Girl" is a highly unusual subject for Ingham, an artist who rarely strayed from portraiture. He may have painted it as a speculative work, or on commission from Jonathan Sturges, who owned the work by the time it appeared on exhibition in the spring of 1847 at the National Academy of Design. Images of street vendors were popular in American and European painting at the time, but more often the subjects were enterprising boys rather than girls. Ingham may well have been familiar with a popular image of the same title by the Spanish painter Esteban Murillo. The setting for Murillo’s picture is virtually identical to Ingham’s and the Spanish flower girl offers her wares with a direct appeal to her viewer, as does Ingham’s American girl. Under her left arm, Ingham's girl carries a magnificent bouquet of flowers that he must have painted from life, but were beyond compare not only in contemporary still life painting but also on the streets of New York. In her right hand, she offers a potted fuchsia, the gesture emblematic of the goddess Flora. The plant itself is symbolic of frustrated love.