Born in 1767 in Maryland, Charles Peale Polk was orphaned by the age of 10 and was subsequently adopted by his uncle, Charles Willson Peale, in Philadelphia. While teaching his own children the painter's art, the elder Peale also trained his nephew. By 1785, Polk advertised as a portrait painter in Baltimore. Polk moved with some frequency during his career, returning within two years to Philadelphia, where he appeared as a as a house, ship and sign painter, and then back to Baltimore, where he worked again as a portrait painter. Polk worked with his cousins at the Peale Museum in Baltimore where he produced in bulk portraits of popular subjects such as Washington, Franklin, Lafayette and Jefferson. Between 1799-1800, Polk worked in Richmond, Virginia and finally settled in Washington by 1818. It was probably during this time that the verre eglomise portrait illlustrated here was painted.
While the identity of this sitter is presently unknown, the provenance of the portrait suggests a Virginia identity (see Simmons, fig. 161).
Charles Peale Polk is the third of only three known American artists, Amos B. Doolittle and John Wesley Jarvis, to work in the verre eglomise medium.