Early American miniature portraits were typically watercolor on ivory. Miniatures were enclosed in oval cases which often had a lock of the sitter’s hair behind a sliver of glass on the reverse side. These small keepsakes were shared with loved ones on special occasions and were frequently worn as jewelry. Miniaturists mainly worked in urban areas and relied on a good social network for commissions. The museum recently purchased this wonderful, rare miniature of Nicholas (Maccubbin) Carroll (1750-1812) by Charles Willson Peale. While Charles Willson Peale is known mostly for his larger portraits, his younger brother James (1749-1831) specialized in miniatures; there are three in the collection of the Hammond-Harwood House Museum.
Nicholas was the nephew and heir of Charles Carroll, the Barrister, and an avid supporter of Charles Willson Peale. As Charles Carroll, the Barrister had no heirs, he selected his sister’s sons Nicholas and James Maccubbin to inherit, with the stipulation that they change their last name to Carroll—which they did. Nicholas was a first cousin, a generation apart, to Charles Willson Peale’s first wife, Rachel Brewer Peale (1744-1790).
Created in 1774, this miniature was painted the same year that Matthias Hammond (1748-1786) and his architect William Buckland (1734-1774) started to build the Hammond-Harwood House. Nicholas’ sister, Mary Clare (1749-1806), married Matthias Hammond’s first cousin John Brice III. Peale taught John Brice III’s brother, Edmund Brice (also Matthias Hammond’s cousin), how to paint miniatures. This miniature will be placed next to a wonderful painting of Mary Clare and her daughter, which will be coming on loan from the Mount Clare Museum House, The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Maryland. The painting and miniature will be part of the exhibition Ambition: Charles Willson Peale in Annapolis, which will open to the public on April 1st, 2022.
(1751-1812), Annapolis, Maryland, 1774
Artist: Charles Willson Peale, American (1741-1827)
Medium: Watercolor on Ivory
Hammond-Harwood House Collection.
Museum Purchase in 2022, P114.