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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Anna Claypoole Peale, American, 1791–1878
Subject: Andrew Jackson, American, 1767–1845

Andrew Jackson (1767–1845)

1819

Watercolor on ivory

3 1/8 × 2 7/16 in. (7.9 × 6.2 cm)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection
1936.302
This miniature by Anna Claypoole Peale of Andrew Jackson, later the seventh president of the United States, is one of the best-known miniatures ever made of a military leader. Peale painted Jackson’s likeness in early 1819, while accompanying her uncle Charles Willson Peale on a painting expedition to Washington, D.C. Anna’s portrait of Old Hickory is widely considered the finest image of the sitter. Like miniatures of George Washington, which honored the first president for his exemplary public life, Peale’s portrait of Jackson captures the likeness of a man whose 1815 victory at the Battle of New Orleans had spelled the end of British influence in Louisiana, concluded the War of 1812, and sparked a spirit of nationalism in the postwar years. However, Jackson, the planter-politician from Tennessee who rose to prominence as a ferocious “Indian fighter,” remained a more controversial figure than the revered Washington. At the time of this portrait, Jackson was in Washington, D.C., to defend himself. He was under investigation by Congress for his brutal treatment in 1818 of the Seminoles in Spanish-held West Florida and his reckless execution of two British subjects who aided the Native Americans. Jackson was stung by the accusations against him and spoke of them with supportive friends during the course of his sittings with the Peales. Perceived by some as a tyrant, he was nonetheless celebrated as a hero in song and legend, and that is how Anna Claypoole Peale presented him. On February 8, 1819, the full House vindicated his conduct in the Seminole War. The same year, as part of the Peale family strategy to attract patrons, Peale’s gallant portrait miniature of the general was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Peale’s miniature declares her own theatrical voice. The cloud-filled sky, while common as a generalized portrait backdrop, here possesses an uncommon dynamism, a drama of shifting wind and light evocative of the battles fought by the sitter as well as of Jackson’s mercurial personality. That background movement is carried forward by the wind-tossed hair and angled pose. As he turns away from the viewer toward distant horizons, only the creases in Jackson’s face—especially around his eyes—hint at the strain that he was experiencing during his contest with Congress.
Geography: 
Made in Washington, D.C., United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
19th century
Classification: 
Miniatures
Provenance: 

J. C. Duncan, San Francisco, by 1876; sold, Stan V. Henkels, Philadelphia, sale no. 1236, June 13, 1919, lot B; Edmund Bury, Philadelphia, by May 1936; to Yale University Art Gallery, by purchase, May 1936

Bibliography: 

Robin Jaffee Frank, “Telling Tales: Three Small Portraits Punctuate a Bigger Story,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2001): 37, fig. 8.

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.