William Edward West
American, 1788 ‑ 1857
The Present, 1833
Oil on canvas
38 1/8 × 31 3/4 × 1 in. (96.8 × 80.6 × 2.5 cm.)
Bequest of Mrs. Blakemore Wheeler
Conservation funded by Mr. and Mrs. William O. Alden Jr., 2007  

What’s Your Reaction?
How would you react if your sister, daughter, or friend received a luxurious necklace as a gift? Would you be happy for her? Impressed? Jealous? When Lexington-native William Edward West exhibited this painting at the American Art Union in New York in 1849, critics praised the artist for the “delicate differences of feeling” he captured in the painting. They recognized expressions of surprise, delight, curiosity, envy, sympathy, and indifference on the faces of family and friends, who watch as a young bride examines an elaborate amethyst necklace she has received as a wedding gift.