THE WORLD OF SAMUEL MEEKER, MERCHANT OF PHILADELPHIA, AND GILBERT STUART, AMERICAN PORTRAIT ARTIST

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Misattribution

This sticker was on the back of the portrait of Samuel Meeker, which of course lent credence to the thought that the Portrait was by Peale. Probably the most important Peale is Charles Wilson (he had 10 children, many became well-known painters as well). He was born in 1741 and moved to Philadelphia in 1776 where he painted portraits of prominant individuals, including George Washington. He was a prolific painter, and besides his art served during the Revolutionary War, engaged actively in politics and civic affairs, and opened up what is considered to be the first museum in the country, filled with a diverse collection of botanical, biological, and archaeological specimens.
So, it was natural to conclude that, indeed, my portrait was by C W Peale. Wow, I thought!

Until, I began to hit roadblocks. Portrait of John and Elizabeth Lloyd Caldwater; C W Peale 1772 @ Philadelphia Museum of Art
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Quite confidently, I wrote David C. Ward (circa 2005), senior associate editor of the Peale Family Papers. He just as confidently dashed the thought that the Portrait was by Peale! He in fact indeed suggested that it might be by our celebrated artist Gilbert Stuart. I just as confidently dismissed this idea, for time lines did not fit. More on that later.
But look closely. How does one describe that DIFFERENCE? ...where the characters in Peale's painting above, somehow are not as dimensional as Samuel Meeker--in fact, there are no styllistic similarities.... Here was one big lesson in art history. Painters have their own "style."
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But what about the sticker? Why does it seem even the Philadelphia Museum of Art agreed that it was by Peale? Well, I have received no satisfactory answer by the museum, for how this mistake could be made. But, to make mistakes is human. Also if one looks closely at the smaller print, it says; "Attributions of Loans are those of the Lender". Note also the mispelling of 'Princeton'-- details were not too important I suppose. And, truth be told, at this point Stuart was nowhere near as well-known, as Peale.
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2 comments:

emikk said...

Wasn't the painting signed? Guess not. Wonder why? No easy answers on this one.

Queenie said...

the portrait of Mr. Meeker is beautiful and WOW IS HE HANDSOME!

 
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