James Peale (American, 1749–1831),
Portrait of Katherine Francis
oil on canvas, 31 x 25 ½ in.; 78.74 x 64.77 cm
Museum Purchase, 1982.2
A member of a renowned family of artists and intellectuals, James Peale originally received artistic training from his eldest brother, Charles Willson Peale, after the latter’s return from England in 1769. By 1786, the two had established a studio in Philadelphia, specializing in miniatures and portraits.
This depiction of Katherine Francis evidences James’ early work as a miniaturist: the delicate lace bodice is rendered with breathtaking delicacy and detail. James, more than Charles, was interested in the latest European artistic developments. The high coloring, backlighting, and attention to particulars are all features of Neoclassicism, then the dominant European artistic trend.