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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: James Peale, American, 1749–1831
Subject: James Chesnut, American, 1773–1866

Colonel James Chesnut (1773-1866)


Watercolor on ivory

3 × 2 1/4 in. (7.6 × 5.7 cm)
Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Collection

James Chesnut, the subject of this miniature, was born and raised in Camden, South Carolina. A wealthy plantation and landowner who served in local government, Chestnut was elected to the state senate in 1832. His father, John Chesnut, fought in the American Revolution and established many of the land holdings that James inherited. It is likely that this miniature was commissioned as a wedding gift for James’s new bride, Mary Cox of Philadelphia, as the two were married in 1796. They had fourteen children together, although six died in infancy. Their son James Chesnut, Jr., became a U.S. senator from South Carolina, and later a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Considered one of the finest and most prolific miniaturists of the federal era, artist James Peale was also one of the founders of the still-life tradition in America. James apprenticed with his older brother Charles Willson Peale, first in saddle-making and then in painting. The Revolutionary War interrupted James’s training as a painter when he enlisted in a Maryland regiment. Following his resignation from the army with the rank of captain in 1779, James settled in Philadelphia, where the brothers divided the practice of portraiture between them: Charles advertised as a painter of oils, and James as a purveyor of miniatures in watercolor on ivory. In addition to contributing to numerous artistic genres, James fathered and encouraged the careers of three of America’s earliest professional women artists: Anna Claypoole Peale, Margaretta Angelica Peale, and Sarah Miriam Peale.

Made in United States
Not on view
18th century
Miniatures - Jewelry

YUAG receipt for miniatures received from Mrs. John Hill Morgan, Oct. 18, 1940, and attached list of Mrs. Morgan's Miniatures has pencil note "Bayley" next to this object. Is that where Morgan got the miniature?

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.