The Hammond-Harwood House is pleased to announce the acquisition of a still life painting Peaches and a Pear on a Plate c.1864 by American artist Margaretta Angelica Peale (1795-1882).
Margaretta Angelica was the niece of one of early America’s most celebrated portraitists, Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). She was the daughter of artist James Peale (1749-1831) and his wife Mary Claypoole. Her maternal grandfather was James Claypoole Sr., a talented Philadelphia artist. The Peale brothers lived in Annapolis until the eve of the American Revolution when they resettled in Philadelphia in 1776, where they remained. They returned often to Annapolis for commissions and to visit family.
The Peale households in Philadelphia generated several important artists including Rembrandt Peale and Charles Peale Polk, whose works are also featured in the collection of the Hammond-Harwood House. Four of James Peale’s daughters, including Margaretta Angelica, were among the first American women to become professional artists. Sisters Anna Claypoole Peale and Sarah Miriam Peale sought out commissions and traveled while Margaretta and Maria remained closer to home.
Margaretta Angelica, like her sisters, painted still life among other genres. Their older cousin, Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825), eldest surviving child of Charles Willson Peale, is considered the first American professional painter of still life. The demands of domestic work and caregiving on 19th century women made still lifes especially popular because it allowed for more control over the subject than portraiture. Still life painting was something they could return to as their time allowed, which may have appealed to Margaretta Angelica, who became a caretaker for her parents in their final years. Her still life works were often given as gifts to family members.
This particular piece has an elegant composition. The luxurious gold rimmed plate contrasts with the striking colors of the voluptuous peaches and pear. The grapes teeter dangerously close to the edge of the table, with one appearing almost transparent, about to fade away. Likewise the plate appears almost lifted with the fruit in a precarious position and liable to fall off the table. Created amid the last years of the American Civil War, Margaretta Angelica’s still life may intentionally depict an idealized setting yet with subtle hints of what is really occurring in Philadelphia in 1864, where more than 24 military hospitals were treating soldiers throughout the city — stark evidence of the war that severely tested the American union.
This acquisition is especially important to the museum and the city of Annapolis as it is the only work by a female member of the Peale family on display in a public collection. We are absolutely thrilled to be adding this unique item to the museum collection. It represents a more inclusive interpretation of the Peale family and the legacy they left in American art.
The painting is on display in the museum’s North East Bedchamber.
Oil on Canvas, 13 1/8 x 18 inches
Signed and dated Marg. A. Peale/ 1864
P106 Museum Purchase in 2021