Silver Basket of Fruit

Rubens Peale (1784-1865)

Philadelphia, 1810–20


Oil on canvas

Rubens Peale came from a family of prolific artists from the Philadelphia area. He began his work as an artist late in life, after time as a museum manager, farmer, and, most fervently, a naturalist. To reference that latter passion, a well-known portrait by his brother Rembrandt Peale, shows Rubens posed with a geranium. In the image, his fingers dip over the edge of the pot into the soil, almost as if he is merging with the plant. His enthusiastic pursuit of botany and the natural sciences is reflected in his late still-lifes, like this one, in which the subjects seem just barely plucked from their vines. In this instance, the tendrils seem to have a life of their own as they twist and curl in all directions.

For Further Thinking: What is something you are passionate about Rubens Peale liked botany?

How would you portray that passion in a piece of art?