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The sitter is posed in a romantic setting wearing fashionable attire, but Peale did not soften her intense gaze or prominent nose.
Helen and her husband founded McLean Seminary, a girls' school in Indianapolis.
Peale was a member of a Philadelphia family of prominent American painters.
Painted by commission from the sitter's father, Helen Miller McLean and her husband moved to Indianapolis, Indiana after 1815. The painting was hung in the McLean Seminary until 1929 when it was donated to the John Herron Art Institue, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art, by alumni in 1929.