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Who Am I?

The girl of this 1794 painting by Thomas Lawrence is Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton. Sarah is about eleven years old. The confidence of her direct look perhaps comes from her beauty and innocence, and from being the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner in Jamaica. Elizabeth Barrett Browning is her cousin.

But the appeal to me is the highly symbolic and suggestive pose and coloring. In the gallery of the Huntington Library, Pinkie and Gainsborough's Blue Boy are the only two portraits on facing walls.  I have sat on the bench in the center of the gallery, observing Pinkie with the Blue Boy at my back, marveling at the unusual and awkward positioning of her arms, similar to martial arts and Buddhist mudras.

I meditated on the symbolism and my responses to this painting, and concluded that Lawrence deliberately included her future sexual maturity. The position and coloration of her elbows are images of her future full breasts with pink nipples prominently displayed, and she is boldly, perhaps brazenly, gazing into our eyes.

If one is unaware of this symbolism, he may see the innocence of the eleven year old, but unconsciously he may be aroused by the naked breasts of a mature woman, but also feels guilty that he is aroused, all below his conscious perceptions. 

This strikes me as a great example of time travel in a painting. It is cubist, not in the usual sense of showing multiple viewpoints (in space) of an object at the same time, but in the sense of showing multiple viewpoints (in time) of an object in the same space.

Aside from the obvious symbolism of the future breasts, there is the position of her arms, not in repose, but in a specific pose, much like martial arts, qigong, or Buddhist mudras.  These poses, or mudras, are deliberately chosen for specific reason, and Sarah's pose is no different. Her left hand is directly over where her right breast will be in a few years. The composition directs our eyes back and forth from her provocative elbow to the hand over her flat chest, and encourages the mind to make that connection.

She consciously projects her intention, that you experience her future persona.