Ruth Harris, 1896
British, Canadian, 1849
oil on canvas
79.2 x 51 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 39053)
Robert Harris painted his niece, the daughter of his brother Ned Harris, Anglican Minister at Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, when she was aged three ("Aetatis" in Latin means aged). As in the portraits of the young Infanta, daughter of Philip IV of Spain painted by the 17th century painter Diego Velázquez so admired by Harris, she stands full-length in a white dress in an undefined space. Her golden hair and two pale blue bows provide the only accents. As Canada's preeminent portrait painter, Harris received numerous commissions, but it is the portraits of family members that evoke the greatest intimacy and psychological insight.