Raphaelle Peale

(American, 1774 - 1825)

Raphaelle Peale was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the first of Charles Willson Peale's children to survive childhood. He received his artistic training from his father and, most probably, had additional instruction from his uncle, the miniaturist James Peale. Raphaelle evidenced real talent as a youthful painter and by 1794, Charles Willson had announced his intention to refer all portrait commissions to his sons Raphaelle and Rembrandt. When the Exhibition of the Columbianum opened in Philadelphia in 1795, Raphaelle displayed more pictures than any of the Peales (thirteen works). During this period, Charles Willson evidently decided that Rembrandt was the more talented of the two sons and his career was given priority. Rembrandt and Raphaelle traveled South and painted portraits in Charleston, South Carolina during the 1795 1796 winter season. The next year they traveled to Baltimore for the same purpose. Raphaelle married Martha McGlathery in 1797 despite objections from his father. The marriage produced seven children. He began to concentrate on painting miniatures and in 1800 made a visit to Baltimore where he received numerous commissions. As early as 1792 Raphaelle traveled to South America to collect specimens for his father's museum and by 1797 much of his time was devoted to working in the Peale Museum. For six months in 1798 he administered the museum while his father was in New York. He aided his father with many of his experiments and secured a patent for his own development of a preservative for ships' timbers. Like his father, he was inquisitive and he contemplated a plan for heating houses, a method for purifying sea water, and in 1803 published a theory of celestial movement. Raphaelle became adept at taxidermy but in later years he would blame many of his physical problems on the use of arsenic which was involved in the procedure. A later trip to Boston and a return to the South in 1805 failed to equal his earlier success. His drinking became more intemperate as he grew older and by 1809 he was treated for delirium at Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia. Though he had enjoyed painting still lifes ever since his youth, he began to concentrate on them as his gout and other physical problems grew more serious. Although he showed two miniatures at the first annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1811, in succeeding years he exhibited mostly still lifes, augmented by only an occasional portrait or miniature. He made painting trips to the South from 1818 until 1821. Again in 1824 he returned to Charleston but was back in Philadelphia by September to work on decorations for Lafayette's visit to the city. He resorted to selling silhouettes of Lafayette and lowered his painting prices but he was in a permanent decline. He died in Philadelphia and was buried at St. Peter's Church.