Charles Willson Peale christened most of his seventeen children after famous artists and scientists; however, there is little consistency between the sons' and daughters' namesakes and their adult careers. While Rembrandt Peale did become a painter and the portraitist of this work, Rubens Peale, who sat for this likeness at the age of seventeen, was a botanist.
Painted in Philadelphia, the work could be described as a double portrait because the geranium, reputed to be the first specimen of this exotic plant ever grown in the New World, is as lovingly portrayed as the painter's brother is. The Peale family often collaborated in their endeavors, and here Rembrandt commemorated his brother's horticultural triumph. Rembrandt's own skill is evident in the clearly defined pools of light on Rubens' cheeks. In a phenomenon familiar to all, his glasses focus the beams passing through them, thereby forming the brighter disks of light under his eyes.
Rubens Peale with a Geranium is a supreme example of the unaffected naturalism which typified the artist's early maturity. Combining firm, clear drawing, carefully modulated color, and an intense devotion to detail, twenty-three-year-old Rembrandt Peale produced an eloquent expression of his family's philosophical orientation.
lower right: Rem Peale / 1801
Marks and Labels
The artist; James Claypoole Copper, Philadelphia; Mary Jane Peale [1827-1902], Pottsville, Pennsylvania, the daughter of the sitter, Rubens Peale; her nephew, Albert Charles Peale [1849-1914], Washington, D.C.; his cousin, Jessie Sellers Colton [Mrs. Sabin Woolworth Colton, Jr., 1855-1932], Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; her daughter, Mildred Colton [Mrs. Robert P.] Esty [1883-1977], Ardmore, Pennsylvania; sold to Lawrence A. Fleischman, Detroit, Michigan; (Kennedy Galleries, New York); purchased by Pauline E. [Mrs. Norman B.] Woolworth; (sale, Sotheby's, New York, 5 December 1985, lot 42); purchased through (Kennedy Galleries, New York) by NGA.
- Exhibition of Portraits by Charles Willson Peale and James Peale and Rembrandt Peale, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1923, no. 73.
- Pennsylvania Painters, Pennsylvania State University, University Park; The Toledo Museum of Art, 1955-1956, no. 11.
- The Fabulous Peale Family, Kennedy Galleries, New York, 1960, no. 74.
- American Art from American Collections, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1963, no. 185.
- The Peale Family and Peale's Baltimore Museum, 1814-1830, The Peale Museum, Baltimore, 1965, no. 16.
- The Peale Family: Three Generations of American Artists, The Detroit Institute of Arts; Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, 1967, no. 139.
- 19th Century America: Paintings and Sculpture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970, no. 2, repro.
- The American Painting Collection of Mrs. Norman B. Woolworth, Coe Kerr Gallery, New York, 1970, no. 87, repro.
- The Eye of Thomas Jefferson, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1976, no. 600, repro.
- The Woolworth Collection: American Paintings, Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, 1980, checklist no. 2.
- Painters of the Humble Truth: Masterpieces of American Still Life, 1801-1939, Philbrook Art Center, Tulsa; The Oakland Museum; Baltimore Museum of Art; National Academy of Design, New York, 1981-1982, checklist no. 112 (repro. in cat. by W. Gerdts).
- A New World: Masterpieces of American Painting 1760-1910, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Grand Palais, Paris, 1983-1984, no. 11, repro.
- Raphaelle Peale Still Lifes, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.,; The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1988-1989, fig. 56.
- In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale, 1778-1860, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1992-1993, fig. 22, pl. 4.
- The Peale Family: Creation of a Legacy 1770-1870, Philadelphia Museum of Art; M. H. De Young Memorial Museum; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1996-1997, no. 162, pl. 16 and frontispiece.
- America: The New World in 19th-Century Painting, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 1999, no. 18, repro.
- Jefferson's America & Napoleon's France: An Exhibition for the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial, New Orleans Museum of Art, 2003, no. 136, repro.
- The Great American Hall of Wonders: Art, Science, and Invention in the Nineteenth Century, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., 2011-2012, fig. 102.
- Sellers, Charles Coleman. Charles Willson Peale. Vol. 2: Later Life (1790-1827). Philadelphia, 1947: fig. 12, opp. 147.
- Rendezvous for Taste: Peale's Baltimore Museum, 1814-1830. Exh. cat. Peale Museum, Baltimore, 1956: repro. 2, 28, no. 82 (not exhibited).
- Feld, Stuart P. "'Loan Collection,' 1965." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 23, no. 8 (April 1965): 283, repro.
- Gerdts, William H., and Russell Burke. American Still-Life Painting. New York, 1971: 36, repro. 34, figs. 2-12.
- Adams, William Howard, ed. The Eye of Thomas Jefferson. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1976: 346, no. 600, repro.
- From Seed to Flower: Philadelphia, 1681-1876; A Horticultural Point of View. Exh. cat. Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Philadelphia, 1976: 24, repro. 27.
- Levene, John R. Clinical Refraction and Visual Science. London, 1977: 171-172.
- Gerdts, William H. Painters of the Humble Truth: Masterpieces of American Still Life 1801-1939. Columbia, Missouri, 1981: 3, color pl. 3, 62-63.
- Miller, Lillian B., Sidney Hart, and David C. Ward, eds. The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family. Vol. 2: Charles Willson Peale: The Artist as Museum Keeper, 1791-1810. New Haven, 1988: 1047 n.4, 1096, 1098 n.15, 1241 n.2, pl. 6.
- Foshay, Ella. Reflections of Nature: Flowers in American Art. New York, 1984: 32-34, repro.
- Hevner, Carol Eaton. Rembrandt Peale, 1778-1860: A Life in the Arts. With a biographical essay by Lillian B. Miller. Exh. cat. Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1985: 20, 21 fig. 5, 103 n. 8.
- Hevner, Carol Eaton. "Rembrandt Peale's Portraits of His Brother Rubens." Antiques 130 (November 1986): 1010-1013.
- Hevner, Carol Eaton. "Rubens Peale with a Geranium by Rembrandt Peale." In Art at Auction: The Year at Sotheby's 1985-86. New York, 1986: 114-116, fig. 1 (color).
- Hevner, Carol Eaton. "The Cover." Journal of the American Medical Association 257, no. 15 (17 April 1987): 1996 and color repro., cover.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 66, no. 10, color repro.
- Wilmerding, John. "America's Young Masters: Raphaelle, Rembrandt, and Rubens." In Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. Raphaelle Peale Still Lifes. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Washington, D.C., 1988: 72-93.
- Gingold, Diane J. and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 136-137, color repro.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 292, color repro.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 256, repro.
- Hevner, Carol Eaton. "The Paintings of Rembrandt Peale: Character and Conventions." In Miller, Lillian B. In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale, 1778-1860. Exh. cat. National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1992: 255, 57-60, fig. 22, 160, color pl. 4, 243.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 222, repro.
- Craven, Wayne. American Art: History and Culture. New York, 1994: 155, color fig. 11.3.
- Kornhauser, Elizabeth Mankin. American Paintings Before 1945 in the Wadsworth Atheneum. London, 1996: no. 597, repro.
- Miller, Lillian B., ed. The Peale Family: Creation of a Legacy, 1770-1870. Exh. cat. Trust for Museum Exhibitions and National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1996: repro. 35, 51-52, 309.
- Miller, Lillian B. "The Peale Legacy: The Art of an American Family, 1770-1870." American Art Review 8, no. 6 (1996): repro. 141.
- Follensbee, Billie J.A. "Rubens Peale's Spectacles: An Optical Illusion?" Survey of Ophthalmology 41, no. 5 (March-April 1997): 417-424, repro.
- Hughes, Robert. American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America. New York, 1997: 106-107, fig. 69.
- Torchia, Robert Wilson, with Deborah Chotner and Ellen G. Miles. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part II. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1998: 48-57, color repro.
- Solti, Carol. "Rembrandt Peale's Rubens Peale with a Geranium: A Possible Source in David Teniers the Younger." American Art Journal 33, nos. 1 and 2 (2002): 4-19, fig. 1.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 332-333, no. 267, color repro.
- Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago and London, 2013: 407.