Overview

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.

Inscription

lower right: Rem Peale / 1801

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

The artist; James Claypoole Copper, Philadelphia;[1] Mary Jane Peale [1827-1902], Pottsville, Pennsylvania, the daughter of the sitter, Rubens Peale;[2] her nephew, Albert Charles Peale [1849-1914], Washington, D.C.;[3] his cousin, Jessie Sellers Colton [Mrs. Sabin Woolworth Colton, Jr., 1855-1932], Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania;[4] her daughter, Mildred Colton [Mrs. Robert P.] Esty [1883-1977], Ardmore, Pennsylvania;[5] sold to Lawrence A. Fleischman, Detroit, Michigan;[6] (Kennedy Galleries, New York); purchased by Pauline E. [Mrs. Norman B.] Woolworth;[7] (sale, Sotheby's, New York, 5 December 1985, lot 42); purchased through (Kennedy Galleries, New York) by NGA.

Exhibition History

1923
Exhibition of Portraits by Charles Willson Peale and James Peale and Rembrandt Peale, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1923, no. 73.
1955
Pennsylvania Painters, Pennsylvania State University, University Park; The Toledo Museum of Art, 1955-1956, no. 11.
1960
The Fabulous Peale Family, Kennedy Galleries, New York, 1960, no. 74.
1963
American Art from American Collections, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1963, no. 185.
1965
The Peale Family and Peale's Baltimore Museum, 1814-1830, The Peale Museum, Baltimore, 1965, no. 16.
1967
The Peale Family: Three Generations of American Artists, The Detroit Institute of Arts; Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, 1967, no. 139.
1970
19th Century America: Paintings and Sculpture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970, no. 2, repro.
1970
The American Painting Collection of Mrs. Norman B. Woolworth, Coe Kerr Gallery, New York, 1970, no. 87, repro.
1976
The Eye of Thomas Jefferson, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1976, no. 600, repro.
1980
The Woolworth Collection: American Paintings, Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, 1980, checklist no. 2.
1981
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).
1983
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.
1989
Raphaelle Peale Still Lifes, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.,; The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1988-1989, fig. 56.
1992
In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale, 1778-1860, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1992-1993, fig. 22, pl. 4.
1996
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.
1999
America: The New World in 19th-Century Painting, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 1999, no. 18, repro.
2003
Jefferson's America & Napoleon's France: An Exhibition for the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial, New Orleans Museum of Art, 2003, no. 136, repro.
2011
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.

Bibliography

1947
Sellers, Charles Coleman. Charles Willson Peale. Vol. 2: Later Life (1790-1827). Philadelphia, 1947: fig. 12, opp. 147.
1956
Rendezvous for Taste: Peale's Baltimore Museum, 1814-1830. Exh. cat. Peale Museum, Baltimore, 1956: repro. 2, 28, no. 82 (not exhibited).
1965
Feld, Stuart P. "'Loan Collection,' 1965." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 23, no. 8 (April 1965): 283, repro.
1971
Gerdts, William H., and Russell Burke. American Still-Life Painting. New York, 1971: 36, repro. 34, figs. 2-12.
1976
Adams, William Howard, ed. The Eye of Thomas Jefferson. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1976: 346, no. 600, repro.
1976
From Seed to Flower: Philadelphia, 1681-1876; A Horticultural Point of View. Exh. cat. Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Philadelphia, 1976: 24, repro. 27.
1977
Levene, John R. Clinical Refraction and Visual Science. London, 1977: 171-172.
1981
Gerdts, William H. Painters of the Humble Truth: Masterpieces of American Still Life 1801-1939. Columbia, Missouri, 1981: 3, color pl. 3, 62-63.
1983
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.
1984
Foshay, Ella. Reflections of Nature: Flowers in American Art. New York, 1984: 32-34, repro.
1985
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.
1986
Hevner, Carol Eaton. "Rembrandt Peale's Portraits of His Brother Rubens." Antiques 130 (November 1986): 1010-1013.
1986
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).
1987
Hevner, Carol Eaton. "The Cover." Journal of the American Medical Association 257, no. 15 (17 April 1987): 1996 and color repro., cover.
1988
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.
1988
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.
1991
Gingold, Diane J. and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 136-137, color repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 292, color repro.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 256, repro.
1992
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.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 222, repro.
1994
Craven, Wayne. American Art: History and Culture. New York, 1994: 155, color fig. 11.3.
1996
Kornhauser, Elizabeth Mankin. American Paintings Before 1945 in the Wadsworth Atheneum. London, 1996, no. 597, repro.
1996
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.
1996
Miller, Lillian B. "The Peale Legacy: The Art of an American Family, 1770-1870." American Art Review 8, no. 6 (1996): repro. 141.
1997
Follensbee, Billie J.A. "Rubens Peale's Spectacles: An Optical Illusion?" Survey of Ophthalmology 41, no. 5 (March-April 1997): 417-424, repro.
1997
Hughes, Robert. American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America. New York, 1997: 106-107, fig. 69.
1998
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.
2002
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.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 332-333, no. 267, color repro.
2013
Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago, 2013: 407.

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