Peale, Raphaelle - portrait of a man

This miniature portrait is unsigned but has been attributed to Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825), a member of the famous Peale family of miniature painters.

The main reasons for the attribution are the painting of the background and the painting quality. Many of his miniatures have a pinkish tinge to the bottom of the background, blue skies and clouds in the middle, and white clouds to the top.

Most, but not all of the miniatures by Raphaelle Peale, face to the left. This is therefore a little unusual in facing to the right. Johnson observes that Raphaelle Peale painted his best work between 1800 and 1805. This miniature appears to date from that period.

The condition of the miniature is a bit grubby and at some stage it will need some attention. The portrait was one of the first American miniatures acquired for this collection and at that time was in a late 19C simple cardboard matt.

It has been rehoused in an, apparently, solid gold frame from around 1850, although it is admitted this frame is really too recent for the date of the portrait. At some stage a more appropraite frame needs to be found.

The sitter is, unfortunately, unknown.

A kind visitor has indicated agreement with the attribution to Raphaelle Peale.

Two of Raphaelle Peale's newspaper advertisements are shown here. The first is from Poulson's Daily Advertiser of Saturday, Jan 10, 1801.

In it; "Raphaelle Peale, Portrait Painter in miniature and large, Will deliver Likenesses for a short time, Fashionably set in Gold, with platts and cyphers complete, for twenty five dollars; miniatures alone, ten dollars. No 28 Powell Street, which is between Spruce and Pine, and running from Fifth to Sixth Streets."

This is interesting, as it shows the cost of a miniature in an ornate frame with hair on the reverse was $25, while the miniature itself was only $10.

The following analysis attempts to equate those early 19C costs with today's values.

The average annual subscription cost for two different 1801 newspapers, (held as part of this collection), was $6 in 1801, so compared to subscription costs today, one could say inflation has increased roughly, say, 100 times. Thus an 1800 framed miniature then costing $25, would equate today to $2500, comprising $1000 for the miniature and $1500 for the frame.

This does show the time and effort that went into hand making frames with their hariwork, around 1800 and supports a view that 19C frames themselves are undervalued.

One miniature portrait painter active in England in the 21C charges GBP 1500 to paint a miniature, which is comparable with the derived figure of $2500.

Some reference books on American miniature portraits infer that Raphaelle Peale ceased painting miniature portraits around 1805 due to his having gout in his hands.

However, the second advertisement shown here from Poulson's Daily Advertiser of Monday, November 1821 indicates that he was still painting miniatures in 1821.

The advertisement states "PAINTING Raphaelle Peale, having returned to Philadelphia after an absence of eighteen months, being desirous of entering business, will Paint Portraits, for a short time, at the following reduced prices:- Portraits in oil colours....$20 Do. in miniature, on ivory....$15 Profiles on Ivory Paper....$3 Likeness after death....$50. Fifteen or twenty minutes with the deceased, is all the time necessary to obtain the means of having a faithful likeness. No 24 Powell street, which runs from Fifth to Sixth, and between Spruce and Pine streets, and where may be seen, and for sale, some Elegant Fruit Pieces".

It may be that Powell Street contained boarding houses, as Raphaelle Peale gives his address as 28 Powell Street in 1801 and 24 Powell Street in 1821. Over that time the price of an unframed miniature rose from $10 to $15.

The reference to the painting of portraits of deceased persons is also an interesting comment. Sadly, many women died in childbirth and hence miniatures were sometimes painted after their death as a memento. Later, daguerreotypes were used for a similar purpose. 217

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