Across Time & Space

Across Time & Space: Multicultural Representations of Girlhood is a survey of girl images from the beginning of recorded civilization to the present. We have put together images from many cultures and eras to see how girls have been represented in different ways. Certainly no singular image is indicative of an entire cultural viewpoint, thus we have utilized specific and general examples where appropriate.

As many societies do not record lasting representations of people, especially children, and others still have yet to really be thoughtfully examined, this exhibition is necessarily considerate of what images are accessible and informative on the themes we would like to illuminate. There are noticeable gaps both in our show and in the art historical record. This is due to a lack of primary research as well as availability of digital images.


What can we learn from these images about the lives of girls in the past?

Human beings are essentially the same animals we were over 10,000 years ago, though we have a great deal more stuff, and anxieties about said stuff. While much is conjecture and assumption, it is entirely valid to imagine how one would feel when placed in girls’ shoes from a thousand years ago.

Emotions are universal. We all experience joy, fear, love, compassion, and anger. We all are subject to the duties and responsibilities of our families and society.

Click on images below of girls from history. What do they say about us?

For fun activities related to this exhibit, for use at home or in the classroom, download our Across Time and Space Education Guide.  This guide is aligned to US and UK educational standards.


Curator: Ashley E. Remer
Editor: Sarah Lynch
Pictorial & Copyright Researcher: Samantha Bradbeer
Exhibition Designer: Lara Band
Curriculum Writer: Miriam Musco

All image copyrights are free, diligently sought, or otherwise acknowledged.

Egypt, 12th Dynasty BCE

Although most cultures across North Africa painted their eyes, the black outline around an almond eye has become a trademark image of the Egyptians.

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Greece‚ late 4th century BCE

Women and children in Ancient Greece were the property of their fathers or husbands. They had very few rights or means to look after themselves outside of the family structure.

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China‚ late 12th century

Young girls are quite often shown as servants in the midst of serving their master, but this one is a Cizhou glazed ceramic stoneware, one of many known reclining child pillows.

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Spain‚ mid 16th century

The daughters of King Phillip of Spain, the infantas Isabella and Catalina, had their portraits painted many times throughout their girlhoods, almost always in the same type of dress.

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England‚ late 16th century

Three Young Girls is a portrait of sisters who have a story to tell. They are each linked to the other in some way, holding hands or arm in arm, showing their sisterhood.

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Italy‚ mid 18th century

Many of Pietro Rotari’s portraits show buxom women with suggestive looks on their faces. La Penitente is a young girl who is either ashamed of something she has done or seen.

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Benin‚ early 19th century

Benin was a powerful and West African state for several hundred years, well before contact with Europeans., with distinctive artistic styles in their sculpture.

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Persia‚ mid 19th century

Girls are often shown performing domestic tasks. Weaving, knitting, sewing, and other textile arts are usually the realm of the female, regardless of class.

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New Zealand‚ mid 19th century

Portraits of indigenous people, especially women and girls, are on one hand renderings of distant ‘realities’, but on the other, they are exploitive and imperialistic.

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Melanesia‚ 19th century

In cultures that do not produce an elaborate visual record with accompanying text, there are a great many assumptions made by the original collectors of the works that can often become fact as they are re-written in successive museum catalogues.

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Ireland‚ mid 19th century

A Connemara Girl is one of the most recognized young, barefoot goat-herders in art history. The daily life of a peasant girl in Ireland is elevated by this simple, yet powerful image.

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Japan‚ late 19th century

Women and landscapes dominate much of 19th century Japanese art. Typically they are shown as docile or passive, but there were other representations of active girls as well.

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USA‚ late 19th century

John Singer Sargent was an American expatriate artist who lived much of his life in Europe. He often painted women and girls from these circles.

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Austria‚ early 20th century

The images of girls created by Egon Schiele are entirely problematic. He is most known for images of young girls, many nude and made under questionable circumstances.

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USA/UK‚ Contemporary

Created by the UK’s most famous anonymous street artist Banksy, Girl with Umbrella speaks of the bleak realities of a post- Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

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