Thomas Jefferson Papers

Certificate for Raphaelle Peale, 15 December 1793

Certificate for Raphaelle Peale

Department of State

The purpose of Mr. Peale’s voyage being merely to collect subjects of Natural history for the valuable Museum of his father at Philadelphia, unconnected with every other object, I hereby certify that fact, in addition to the preceding passport, and recommend the said Rafaelle Peale to the aid and patronage of all the lovers and protectors of science wheresoever he may have need of them. Given under my hand at Philadelphia aforesaid this 15th. day of December 1793.

Th: Jefferson

MS (PPAmP: Peale-Sellers Papers); in TJ’s hand; with subjoined 17 Dec. 1793 note by Governor Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania stating that he “chearfully joins in the above recommendation”; both certificates written on verso of 14 Dec. 1793 printed passport for “Rafaelle Peale” (see Appendix iii).

Raphaelle Peale (1774–1825), the eldest son of the Philadelphia painter and museum proprietor Charles Willson Peale, had a varied and largely unsuccessful career as a naturalist, taxidermist, painter of portraits and miniatures, silhouette cutter, inventor, and poet, but is now recognized as the first important American painter of still lifes, a genre to which he turned in later years as his precarious health declined (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Linda Bantel, and John Wilmerding, Raphaelle Peale Still Lifes [Washington, D.C., 1988]). His Voyage took him to Cayenne, French Guiana, where he obtained a wildcat and possibly a toucan, but he must have abandoned his ambitious plans for a trip northward to Mexico, for he was apparently back in Philadelphia by 24 Apr. 1794, when his father gave up painting portraits in favor of him and his brother Rembrandt Peale (Lillian B. Miller and others, eds., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and his Family, 3 vols. in 4 [New Haven, 1983–  ], ii, pt. 1, p. 78–9, 91).

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