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Loan Object
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Charles Willson Peale, American, 1741–1827

American Officer

ca. 1780

Watercolor on ivory

1 5/8 × 1 5/16 in. (4.1 × 3.3 cm)
Promised bequest of Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch and Alvin Deutsch, LL.B. 1958, in honor of Kathleen Luhrs

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.

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

Dora Lamb Curtis (who reportedly added signature); Hirsch and Adler; Ed Paine; Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch and Alvin Deutsch

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.