Skip to main content

Rembrandt and Harriet Peale papers, 1824-1932

Rembrandt and Harriet Peale papers, 1824-1932

Peale, Rembrandt, 1778-1860

Painter

Representative image for Rembrandt and Harriet Peale papers, 1824-1932

The papers of Rembrandt and Harriet Peale in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2008. The papers have been scanned in their entirety and total 183 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 0.2 linear feet

Summary: This collection of papers measures 0.2 linear feet, dates from circa 1820-1932, and provides scattered documentation of the lives of painter Rembrandt Peale and his wife Harriet. The papers contain seven letters from Peale to various individuals, including Massachusetts senator Elijah Hunt Mills, that document his attempts to seek recognition and recompense from Congress for his portraits of George Washington and illuminate his opinions on patronage of the arts. Also found here is a copy of Peale's lecture on "Washington and his Portraits," and legal papers consisting of two codicils to Harriet Peale's will which list the disposition of Rembrandt Peale paintings in her possession. There is a page with drawings of Roman coins by Peale, printed material including a pamphlet for Peale's popular allegorical painting The Court of Death, and a catalog of sale for Harriet Peale's estate. Photographs picture Rembrandt and Harriet Peale respectively, circa 1850.

Biographical/Historical Note

Rembrandt (1778-1860) and Harriet Peale (née Cany) (circa 1800-1869) were painters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Provenance

Transferred from the National Museum of American Art library, 1979, who received it 1966 from Ann Saven.

Related Materials

Funding

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Rembrandt and Harriet Peale Collection, circa 1820-1932, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.pealremb
Biographical Note
Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860) was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and was the second son of painter Charles Willson Peale. He was known primarily for his historical paintings and portraits, particularly those of George Washington. Peale painted his first Washington portrait in 1795 at the age of 17, in a sitting arranged by his father. From 1795-1800 he traveled in Maryland and the South painting portraits, and from 1801-1803 studied with Benjamin West in London.
Peale returned to Europe from l808 to l8l0, and spent most of his time in Paris where he was inspired to take up historical painting. From 1813-1822 he lived in Baltimore where, in 1814, he established a museum for paintings and natural history that later became known as the Peale Museum. Peale's most famous allegorical painting,
Court of Death
, was completed in 1820 and was one of the most popular paintings of the decade.
In 1822 Peale moved to New York City where he embarked on an attempt to paint what he hoped would become the "Standard likeness" of Washington. In the process he reviewed portraits by other artists including John Trumbull, Gilbert Stuart and his father, as well as his own 1795 picture which had never truly satisfied him. His resulting
Patriae Pater
, completed in 1824, depicts Washington through an oval window, and is considered by many to be second only to Gilbert Stuart's iconic
Athenaeum
painting of the first president. Peale subsequently attempted to capitalise on the success of what quickly became known as his "Porthole" picture, collecting tesimonials praising the portrait from people who had known the president, and lobbying Congress, in vain, for a commission to paint an equestrian portrait of Washington. Despite his failure to gain such a commission, "Patriae Pater" was purchased by Congress in 1832 and still hangs in the U.S. Capitol.
Peale subsequently produced over 70 replicas of the "porthole" picture and in the late 1850s delivered a series of lecture entitled "Washington and his Portraits" along the East coast. He was also an accomplished writer and lecturer on natural history, and was among the founders of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, a president of the American Academy, and a founder of the National Academy.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as one series.
Provenance
Transferred from the National Museum of American Art library, 1979, who received it 1966 from Ann Saven.
Processing Information
Portions of the collection were microfilmed on receipt on reels 3470, 3646, and D9. All accessions were integrated and fully processed by Stephanie Ashley in 2008 and digitized in 2008 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Rembrandt and Harriet Peale papers, 1824-1932. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available