Isaac Oliver (about 1558-1617)
Two portrait miniatures depicting two girls; one aged four holding an apple and one aged five holding a carnation
Watercolour on vellum set in ivory frames
Museum no. P.145 and 146-1910
These miniatures are of two girls aged four and five. One holds an apple, the other a carnation. When these miniatures were made, only the well off could afford to have portraits painted. We do not know who these children were, but we may assume that they were sisters and that they came from a wealthy family. Isaac Oliver introduced distinguishing elements into these very similar images: the apple and carnation, the frown and the smile. It is possible that these symbols had a personal meaning for the family who commissioned the portraits, and they may not have been the artist's idea. In many paintings an apple (the fruit that Eve took from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden) stood for the biblical story of the Fall of Man. A carnation symbolised the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. But how these applied to these two girls is now unclear. The significance or otherwise of the ring is also unknown.