32¢ Rembrandt Peale
Four Centuries of American Art
Issue Date: August 27, 1998
City: Santa Clara, CA
Printed By: Sennett Security Products
Printing Method: Photogravure
Rembrandt Peale was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on February 22, 1778, and was destined to become an artist. After studying for a time with his father, Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt attended the Royal Academy in London, where he further developed his style.
Perhaps Rembrandt Peale’s greatest contributions to the world of art are his many portraits. During his career he painted Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. In fact, following the first sitting, Peale went on to paint Washington at least 76 more times, using the original portrait as a guide. These portraits were known as the “porthole paintings,” because the large, oval frames resemble the portholes of a ship. These portraits were also available in a variety of different combinations. One could purchase Washington looking right or left, in military or civilian dress, at half-length or on horseback, and with or without the words Patriae pater (father of the country) and a head of Zeus.
Peale’s portrait, however, never gained the popularity of other paintings of Washington. Although he hoped for a successful career as a respected history painter, Peale’s most memorable painting features his half-blind brother Rubens holding a geranium.