Still Life with Liqueur and Fruit, 1814
Oil on panel
Still Life with Liqueur and Fruit is an exceptional early example of Raphaelle Peale’s “dining room pictures” and is one of only some 50 examples known today. The artist’s still lifes were considered extraordinary long before the vogue for still life took hold later in the century.
Delicacies from far-off origins, associated with the types of desserts offered in well-to-do households, are presented here in tempting detail. The meticulously rendered textures and skillfully executed reflections underscore Peale’s interest in scientific naturalism. The flawlessly balanced composition speaks to the desire in the early Republic for rational order, although the suggestion of extravagance simmers just below the surface.
“In Venus Rising from the Sea, Raphaelle Peale created the illusion of a cloth hiding a bathing woman. Technical examination, however, reveals that her body does not continue underneath the linen. The visible figural elements add to the deception. They were derived not from life, but from a print of an earlier canvas by the Englishman James Barry. Peale’s deception draws on the ancient Roman author Pliny’s account of a competition between two Greeks to determine the better artist. While Zeuxis painted grapes so convincingly that birds pecked at them, Parrhasios painted a curtain so realistically that it tricked his fellow artist. Peale’s design also alludes to the contemporary practice of covering paintings of nudes, one that he deemed ridiculous though his father Charles Willson Peale found it prudent.” — From the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. ☄️