About This Artwork

Charles Willson Peale
American, 1741–1827

Mrs. John Nicholson (Hannah Duncan) and John Nicholson, Jr., 1790

Oil on canvas
91.5 x 69.3 cm (36 x 27 5/16 in.)
Signed and dated, lower right: "CWPeale/Painted 1790."

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison, 1952.1001

Charles Willson Peale was a prominent figure in the cultural and scientific life of Philadelphia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He established his own museum dedicated to the arts and natural sciences and helped found the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1805. Mrs. John Nicholson (Hannah Duncan) and John Nicholson, Jr. is a tender portrait of mother and child. The natural backdrop and sprig of flowers in the boy’s hand signal a domestic bond. Mrs. Nicholson’s uncorseted dress and freely coiffed hair (without a wig) likewise speak to the humanistic ideals of the Enlightenment.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Washington, D.C., National Portrait Gallery, Charles Willson Peale and His World, November 4, 1982-January 2, 1983, no. 158, cat. by Edgar P. Richardson, p. 216 ill.; traveled to Fort Worth, Amon Carter Museum, February 11-April 3, 1982; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, June 6-September 4, 1983.

Publication History

Charles Coleman Sellers, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 59 (1969), p. 74.

Edgar P. Richardson, (Abrams, Inc., 1982), cat. no. 158, p. 216 ill.

Judith A. Barter et al, American Arts at The Art Institute of Chicago: From Colonial Times to World War I (Art Institute of Chicago, 1998).

Ownership History

Hannah Duncan Nicholson, 1790; by descent to John Nicholson, Jr. and wife, Anne Galbreth, 1823; by descent to Frances Sophia Duncan Nicholson (John Jr.’s daughter) and husband, Hon. Robert N. Ogden, 1848; by descent to the Ogden family 1893. Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison, Jr., Chicago, by 1952; given by them to the Art Institute, 1952.

Interpretive Resources

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