The Contest for the Bouquet: The Family of Robert Gordon in Their New York Dining–Room, 1866
Seymour Joseph Guy (American, 1824–1910)
Oil on canvas; 24 5/8 x 29 1/2 in. (62.5 x 74.9 cm)
Purchase, Gift of William E. Dodge, by exchange, and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1992 (1992.128)
Gordon, a British-born financier, art collector, and a founding trustee of the Metropolitan Museum, ordered this portrait, which shows his family in their home on West 33rd Street. Gordon 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 bouquet suggests that he will be prepared to follow in his successful father's footsteps. His sister reaches for the prize 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.