Although often overshadowed by his more famous older brother Charles Willson Peale, James Peale was an outstanding artist in his own right. Accomplished in a variety of styles, for many years he was best known as a portraitist in miniatures and oils. In more recent imes his landscapes and still lifes, with their warm glowing colors and delicate brushwork, have been increasingly admired. Like his brother, James spent his early adulthood pursuing a career in various crafts, which was interrupted by a grueling three-year stint as a soldier in the American Revolution. James studied painting with Charles, and when the elder Peale stopped taking portrait commissions to concentrate on his famed museum, James took on his brother's thriving miniature business.
The sketchy pendant portraits of Eliza Anthony Smith and William Rudolph Smith(1966.8.2), depict Peale's sitters as a fashionable and somewhat fragile looking young couple. As with many of his portraits in the miniature style, Peale used subtle colors and paid considerable attention to his sitters' hair, capturing every curl and strand with a tight brush stroke. These small portraits, like delicately colored drawings, stand in marked contrast to the lush colors and painterly approach of Peale's larger portraits, landscpaes and still lifes.