Anna Maria Smyth

Sarah Miriam Peale

Artistically trained in Philadelphia by her father James and uncle Charles, Sarah Peale is frequently distinguished as the first woman in America to make a profession of painting. In the mid-1820s, she established a profitable studio in Baltimore, successfully competing for commissions with such well known artists as Thomas Sully, John Wesley Jarvis, and Jacob Eichholtz. Over the course of the next twenty years, Peale produced more than one hundred portraits, including those of nationally prominent politicians such as Daniel Webster and Senators Thomas Hart Benton and Lewis F. Linn of Missouri. It may have been Linn who, in 1847, invited Peale to visit Saint Louis. She remained there for the next thirty years and continued to paint portraits and still lifes. One of the most distinctive features of Peale's portraits is her interest in decorative details. This is evident in the attention paid to the lace collar and the feathered fan in this portrait, which dates from her early years in Philadelphia. The high degree of finish and the frontal gaze of the sitter further suggest the influence of French Neoclassical portraiture, probably inspired by Peale's cousin Rembrandt, who had studied in France. In 1824, along with her sister Anna, Sarah was elected to the honorary position of Academician by the Pennsylvania Academy; they were the first two women to be so honored.
Date of Birth
Oil on canvas
35 15/16 x 27 7/16 in. (91.28125 x 69.69125 cm.)
Accession #
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. John Frederick Lewis (The John Frederick Lewis Memorial Collection)

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