Samuel Morse is chiefly remembered as an inventor, specifically for the development of the telegraph. In the early nineteenth century, however, he was regarded as New York’s leading portrait painter. This tender, elegant image of his wife and children, which has descended through the Morse family over the years, resonates with both private and public meaning. A celebration of domestic relationships, it belongs to a genre of portraits that first became popular during the mid eighteenth century, a time known as the Age of Enlightenment. By giving new emphasis to the maternal role in family life—an influence that increasingly challenged paternal authority at home—these portraits reveal the changing ideas about domestic life promoted by such thinkers as Jean Jacques Rousseau.