Woman Tuning a Mandolin


John Gadsby Chapman (American 1808–1889)


about 1830


Oil on canvas


12 1/2 x 11 1/4 in. (31.8 x 28.6 cm)


Chapman was a versatile artist, best known for his elaborately decorated Harper’s Illuminated Bible (1846) and his large historical painting The Baptism of Pocahontas (1837) in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Like many artists, Chapman supplemented his income by painting portraits and making copies of famous Old Master paintings, such as seen in this remarkably accurate copy of a seventeenth-century Dutch genre painting. Such scenes of everyday life were first made popular in Holland and enjoyed a tremendous revival in the United States in the antebellum period. The subject of the Athenæum’s painting charms the viewer with its focus on the sometimes fine line between childhood and adulthood. Here, the woman attempts to tune her instrument, but is helplessly distracted by the boy’s antics.

Credit Line

Athenæum purchase, 1832

Object Number