Untitled Document

Artist Biography

 Prior to the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, and with it New York City’s subsequent rise to continental preeminence, Philadelphia had been the most important city in the country in terms of population, economy and the arts. First amongst Philadelpians, during that golden age, were the Peale family, America's first artistic dynasty. Led by a brilliant father, Charles Wilson Peale, the sons were all named after famous artists of the past. His sons Raphaelle and Rembrandt are considered to be the finest still life artists this country has ever had. Thus began the Pennsylvania still life tradition which later included Severin Rosen, William Harnett, and John F. Peto.


The example shown here by Raphaelle Peale dates from 1818, and besides the draughtsmanship and luminescence, the subjects are significant artifacts. The lemons came from an early greenhouse (then called a “hot house”) on east bank of the Schuykill River. Its’ original name was, “Vineyard Hill” and besides being one of the colony’s first wineries, it was a part of the manor of William Penn. A century later Vineyard Hill was owned by Robert Morris, who built the hot house, and changed the name to Lemon Hill, in recognition of the exotic crop. In Peale’s time it was owned by Henry Cheevers Pratt. Peale expert Phoebe Lloyd, suggested a possibility that, “that Henry Pratt commissioned from Raphaelle a still life for his dining room to compliment the two most famed commodities of his country house grounds.” That remains uncertain, but what is known is that in both subject and artist they are truly representative of the golden age of Philadelphia.