American Officer Artist: Charles Willson Peale (American, 1741–1827)

ca. 1780

American Paintings and Sculpture

Not on view

One of the most prolific and versatile of early American artists, Charles Willson Peale began his career in Maryland as a saddler and self-taught artist. After studying in London with Benjamin West, he returned to the United States, settling in Philadelphia to paint portraits. Recognizing the demand for small portraits that could be hidden from the enemy, Peale found ample employment in revolutionary Philadelphia, the center of the struggle for independence. Peale took likenesses of military officers and statesmen who commissioned miniatures for their far-away loved ones. The uniform of the unidentified American officer indicates that the sitter, like Peale, was a captain in the Continental army. The epaulette on his right shoulder and the scarlet facings and silver trim of his coat further suggest that he served in an infantry regiment organized by one of the mid-Atlantic states. The head of a large family of artists, Peale nurtured American artists at large, and, after the revolution, he focused his efforts on establishing a museum in Philadelphia that would encompass art, history, and the natural world.


Watercolor on ivory


1 5/8 × 1 5/16 in. (4.1 × 3.3 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch in memory of Alvin Deutsch, LL.B. 1958, and in honor of Kathleen Luhrs and Robin Jaffee Frank, Ph.D. 1995

Loan number



18th century


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 records is ongoing.



Dora Lamb Curtis; with Hirsch and Adler Gallery, New York; sold to Edward Grosvenor Paine (1911--1994, dealer), New Orleans, Louisiana; sold to Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch and Alvin Deutsch (1932--2021), New York, by 1994 (on loan as a promised gift to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1999–2022); given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2022
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

lockets, miniatures (paintings), portraits

Technical metadata and APIs


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