Collections › MESDA Collection › Mary (Carr) Grundy and
Mary Grundy

Mary (Carr) Grundy and
Mary Grundy

Peale, Charles Willson
Place Made:
Baltimore Maryland United States of America
Date Made:
oil on canvas
HOA: 39 1/4; WOA: 27 1/4
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Painting, oil on canvas, of a woman and little child. The painting is signed and below center on the right side by the artist. The adult figure is half-length, and she has brown hair with a silver ribbon. She has brown eyes, wears a white dress with a narrow gold braid around her neck, and a blue sash flecked with gold with a gold tassel. The baby has light brown hair, hazel eyes, and wears a white dress. The woman sits on a yellow chair upholstered in red. The background is grey at left, and there is a red-brown curtain at right.

FRAME: 3′ diameter gold leaf.

SITTERS: Mrs. Grundy, nee Mary Carr, was born in 1762, and married George Grundy (1755-1825), a Baltimore merchant, in 1780. Their estate “Bolton” was named for her ancestral home in England, and it was located near Baltimore. Mary, the child in this work, was born in April, 1788, and she was not quite one year old when the painting was done. She died at age 21 from a fall.

STYLE: The portrait reflects several features which are typical of Peale’s work: oval-shaped faces, the sash at the waist ending in a gold tassle, red upholstered chair with gilt carving, and hair piled high and laced with either pearls, or in this case ribbon, long curl with wispy treatment of the rest of the hair. Children in Peale’s portraits are quite appealing, and he seems to have been a rare colonial artist with an affinity for them. Mrs. Grundy is looking slightly away from the artist, and her head is tilted to the left. This is balanced by the child, who is looking straight ahead with her head tilted to the right. The mother’s arm and long fingers support the child, but notice that Peale has the child grasping the lace at the bodice of the mother’s dress as if for additional support. The mother is seen as if she was posed alone. The baby on her lap actually appears as if she was laying in her cradle.

HISTORY: The picture did not satisfy the family, and Peale’s comment in his diary, Jan. 24, 1789, betrays some defensive asperity and illustrates his response to the criticism. He wrote: “Mrs. Grundy and child I believe quite done. The picture I esteem one of my best pieces. The mother being a fine figure and the child handsome.” He clearly gave in as the next page records that “I painted anew the head of Mrs. Grundy, which pleased better than the first.” Peale was paid thirty-five pounds for this painting.