Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of Rubens Peale

Rubens Peale with a Geranium, Rembrandt Peale

Rubens Peale with a Geranium, Rembrandt Peale

Rubens Peale with a Geranium, Rembrandt Peale, oil on Canvas, roughly 28 x 24 inches (71 x 61 cm); in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, DC.

Link is to the NGA page, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version of the image. There is also a zoomable version on the Google Art Project, and a downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons.

The American painter and naturalist Charles Willson Peale named most of his children after noted artists or scientists. Some of them took up the interests of their father, Rembrandt became a noted portrait painter, and Rubens a botanist and later in life a still life painter.

Here, a young Rembrandt Peale paints a portrait of his 17 year old brother Rubens holding his prize specimen of a geranium — at the time an exotic plant, not native to the Americas — supposedly the first grown on the continent. Rembrandt has given the plant a careful and portrait-like treatment to honor his brother’s accomplishment.


4 Replies to “Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of Rubens Peale”

  1. Have to say, that’s a sad looking specimen of geranium even if it is the first one here. Obviously needs a drink at the very least! (kidding)
    However, it certainly adds to the accuracy of the moment. One could conjecture that the plant started to wilt during the multiple sittings for the portrait, and was the last to be painted (or watered).

    Another great post, Charley!

    Thank you,


  2. It’s a lovely portrait, thanks.
    Also my thanks for the information down to the last detail.
    But what are the second pair of glasses for, that Rubens holds in his left hand?

  3. My guess is that Rembrandt Peale thought them to be characteristic of his brother. Rubens Peale suffered from poor eyesight, which contributed to his decision not to go into art initially, though he did turn to painting still life later in his life.

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