National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Benjamin and Eleanor Ridgely Laming Charles Willson Peale (painter)
American, 1741 - 1827
Benjamin and Eleanor Ridgely Laming, 1788
oil on canvas
overall: 106 x 152.5 cm (41 3/4 x 60 1/16 in.) framed: 125.1 x 171.5 x 7 cm (49 1/4 x 67 1/2 x 2 3/4 in.)
Gift of Morris Schapiro
On View
From the Tour: American Portraits of the Late 1700s and Early 1800s
Object 3 of 8

Peale was a major figure in both art and science during America's revolutionary and federal periods. In 1786 he converted the painting gallery attached to his Philadelphia home into a museum of "Natural Curiosities." Peale's enthusiasm for learning was such that he named most of his seventeen children after famous scientists or painters.

In 1788 the Lamings of Maryland commissioned Peale to paint this double portrait. In addition to working on the picture, which incorporates a "view of part of Baltimore Town," Peale studied natural history and collected specimens while in residence at the Lamings' suburban estate. Peale's diary records his progress from 18 September, when he "sketched out the design" after dinner, to 5 October, when he added the finishing touches "and made the portrait much better."

Peale cleverly devised a leaning posture for the husband so that his portly figure would not overshadow his petite wife. This unusual, reclining attitude binds the couple together and tells of their love. The spyglass and exotic parrot may indicate Laming's mercantile interest in foreign shipping. Mrs. Laming's fruit and flowers, although symbols of fertility, might refer to her own gardening activities. The detailed attention to the bird, plants, scenery, telescope, and complicated poses attests to Peale's encyclopedic range of interests.

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