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JAMES PEALE (1749-1831)

Still Life

JAMES PEALE (1749-1831)
Still Life
signed ‘J. Peale’ (lower right)-signed again and inscribed 'Painted by/James Peale/given to/Mary J. Peale/by Rubens Peale (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
18 ¹/₈ x 26 ¹/₄ in. (46 x 66.7 cm.)
The artist.
Rubens Peale, nephew of the above.
Mary J. Peale, daughter of the above, by gift.
Albert Duveen, New York.
Private collection, circa 1950s.
By descent to the present owner.

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Lot Essay

As a member of the renowned Peale family of artists and regarded as a pioneer of the American still-life tradition, James Peale holds an important place in history for his realistic trompe l'oeil paintings, portraits and miniatures. Trained by his highly regarded older brother, Charles Willson Peale, James Peale began his painting career after serving in the Revolutionary War and settling in Philadelphia in 1782. Peale first exhibited still-life subjects at the Columbianum in 1795. According to Linda Crocker Simmons, "The works exhibited document the birth of the still-life tradition in America; [James and his nephew Raphaelle] were to be the principal practitioners of this art form for many decades to come." (L.B. Miller, ed., The Peale Family: Creation of a Legacy 1770-1870, Washington, D.C., 1996, p. 217)

Indeed, as demonstrated by the present work, James Peale's "lush evocations of the earth's abundance won a popularity denied to Raphaelle Peale's stark, intense compositions." (E.G. Holland, S.T. Colwill, K.B. Whiting-Young, Four Generations of Commissions: The Peale Collection of the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland, 1975, p. 33). Simmons notes, “His depictions of natural objects seem to be based on direct observation and a perception of their interrelationships over time, not the geometry of their forms. Visual examination informs his hand in the depiction of the items before him, and his awareness of the passage of time is evident." (The Peale Family: Creation of a Legacy 1770-1870, p. 218). Peale explored this theme in other important works such as Apples & Grapes in a Pierced Bowl (1823-25, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

The first owner of the present work was James’ nephew Rubens Peale, who turned to still life painting late in life and it is not surprising that he shared the artistic affinity and talent of his father Charles, uncle James and his brothers Raphaelle and Rembrandt. Indeed, Rubens often looked to their works for inspiration and copied them as with the present still life. Rubens’ copy of Still Life was sold at Christie’s on November 28, 2007.