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Gopnik's Daily Pic: Rosalba Peale by Rembrandt Peale

By Blake Gopnik

The latest feed from my morning musings about art and objects at

(Courtesy the Smithsonian American Art Museum)
Click for larger image

A portrait of the young artist Rosalba Peale, painted by her father Rembrandt Peale in about 1820 and now in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Rosalba is a third-generation painter, and her portrait seems almost a concentration of family talent. It has lost the awkwardness of many Peale portraits, and just seems like the most natural expression of natural grace - which means it is full of exquisite artifice, exquisitely hidden. The strangely stiff white ruff, rather coarsely painted, is a perfect foil for Rosalba's gorgeously lustrous eyes, philtrum and ringlets.

One question: Does Rosalba's painter-father render her so brilliantly as the delightfully demure object of Old Master art (there are hints of the Renaissance in her costume) in order to defuse the threat of her as a potential rival - as an art maker, now.

By Blake Gopnik  | November 18, 2010; 9:20 AM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Museums  | Tags:  Daily Pic  
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