Charles Willson Peale exemplified the ingenuity and intellectual curiosity of the young American republic. He named his children after major artists and scientists, including Raphael, Rubens, and Linnaeus. Most of his children fulfilled their father’s ambitions by becoming painters, scientific illustrators, or naturalists. His second surviving son, Rembrandt, achieved notoriety for his many portraits of George Washington. This portrait of Mary Clare Maccubbin Brice and her daughter is a copy after a painting his father produced circa 1773.
Historically, the act of copying from past masters was valued more than it is today. Rembrandt may have copied Charles’s portrait to satisfy desire on behalf of the Brice family to possess additional visual reminders of Mrs. Brice, who died in 1806, or her daughter, who did not reach adulthood. This copy also reflects the esteem Rembrandt held for his father as an artist and mentor. The mother and child have been rendered as fairly generic pictorial types, a stylistic choice which aided an early 19th-century viewer in associating the pair with the virtue, compassion, and devotion characterized by iconographic representations of the Madonna and Child.