In the clothing and background the paint is fluid and rich in medium. It is broadly applied with obvious, painterly brushwork and little or no impasto (although the thicker paint in the shadows does create a pronounced texture). Glazes are used to build up the rich, deep colors. For the faces and hands of the mother and the child, however, Brush changed his technique. Here the color is broken up in a manner akin to the Pointillists. The paint is paste-like and opaque, and the artist used a small brush to apply short strokes of pink, white, yellow, orange, and, in the shadows, green to softly build up the features. Then, after this layer had dried, Brush returned to the more traditional method of rich, blended paint to create some pronounced shadows on the faces, particularly on the cheek and under the chin of the mother.
The clothing and the background were painted wet-into-wet. For the clothing Brush began with the primary mid-tone. He then added dark umbers and blacks to define the drapery folds and lighter colors for the highlights. Sequencing is difficult to determine because Brush continued to make adjustments to the contours of the figures, but the purplish background is clearly painted around the figures in at least the upper two-thirds of the painting. Background brushstrokes follow the figures' contour and the background paint around the edge of the baby's proper left arm and coattail in places leaves the red imprimatura exposed between the design and the background. In the lower third the paint is thinner and more abstract; Brush may have worked back and forth between the background and the skirt.
The dark, medium-rich paint cracked and contracted as it dried. This alligatoring effect is most pronounced in the thicker paint but even there it is not particularly disfiguring. There is also some abrasion in the thin paint in the lower section.
The painting appears to have initially been conceived with a wider format. On the right and left sides there is reddish paint extending across the 1 in. [2.5 cm] tacking margins. However, the purplish background glazes are not apparent on the left tacking margin and they only extend erratically for about ½ in. on the right, indicating that Brush established the present dimensions at an early stage of the painting. The top and bottom dimensions are unchanged; paint overlap onto the tacking margins is insignificant except for a short strip in the lower left corner.
There are numerous small compositional changes, the most significant being the baby's coattail that originally extended an additional 2 ¼ in. (5.715 cm). The collar of the mother's dress was added over a completely painted neck, and the tops of the mother's hair and the baby's cap were extended over the background. The cap may also have originally come down further on the baby's forehead.
There is a moderately glossy, synthetic resin surface coating. In addition, under ultraviolet light patches of green fluorescence indicate incomplete removal of old natural resin varnish, particularly on the mother's upper sleeve.
The frame is wood with three bands of gilded composition ornament. The wide outer molding is decorated with foliate patterns and large cartouches at the corners and the center of each side. The other two bands are narrow; the center one has a granular texture and is recessed while the band next to the painting has a foliate pattern on a striated background. A small cluster of what appears to be grapes at each corner bridges the recess over the center molding. The grapes on the left side top and bottom are missing. Given that the Corcoran purchased the painting the year it was painted, it seems likely that the frame is original.
mother and childred dresswomanwoman in redchildrenoil on canvas