"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Phoebe Pemberton Morris

This ca. 1792 painting of Phoebe Pemberton Morris (1791-1825) by Charles Willson Peale hangs in Dumbarton House in Washington, DC.
Dumbarton House describes Phoebe and the this painting this way:

Who: Phoebe Pemberton Morris

When: 1791-1725

What: This portrait of Phoebe Morris was painted by the artist Charles Wilson Peale (American, 1741-1827) in 1796, when Phoebe was approximately 5 years old. The dress and necklace worn in this portrait are in the Wyck Association Collection in Philadelphia.

Why: Through family and friends, Phoebe Morris has an important connection to Dumbarton House an Nourses. Phoebe Morris is the sister of Rebecca Wistar Morris, wife of Charles Nourse, son of Joseph Nourse, Phoebe's father, Anthony Morris, was a Quaker and lawyer from Philadelphia.

Phoebe also had a close relationship with First Lady Dolley Madison, who invited her to balls at the President's House, or "Palace," and to other social events in Washington. Phoebe would often describe such occasions in a letter to her father. Dolley unsuccessfully tried to play matchmaker with her son, Payne Todd, and Phoebe. She stayed with the Madisons for several months in early 1812. In May 1811, Dolley writes to Phoebe, "My dear and precious Phebe [sic]... I have wept over your charming letter - which proves that I love and regret you...."


  1. Please spell Charles Willson Peale correctly. Also, proof reading would have let you know that your "When" travels back in time. Finally, not to be critical at this point, but you should have used professional images. The distortion in the second picture, as well as the glare in the lower right corner, would be nonexistent. Did you ask the museum for a professional image? It would have made both you and them look better. Advice for future postings.

    1. Thanks for the help editing. I fixed the spelling of Charles Willson Peale but it seems to me that 1791 is circa 1792. The Smithsonian dates the picture ca. 1792 and Dumbarton House dates it 1791. So I'm sticking with that. As to the photo, the idea of this blog is to show off my photos of portraits. You're right I might have taken a better photo but I didn't; Using someone else's photo would miss the mark.