Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rembrandt Peale

As I’ve mentioned, MedChi has an extensive collection of portraits of our early Presidents and other luminaries at our organization. There are few stars in the collection and amongst those are several by early American  and Baltimore painter, Rembrandt Peale.

imagePeale lived and worked in Baltimore starting in 1814, and opened the Peale Museum at that time. He painted many portraits of well-known Baltimoreans and others, including this well-known painting of his brother, Rubens. (I have a cutting from a descendant of this geranium, as well as a copy of the pot by potter Guy Wolff.)image

Rembrandt Peale’s paintings are clear and well-defined and the detail is amazing.

We have two paintings that are definitely Peales and one that is attributed to Peale by the experts at Sotheby’s. This is Charles Sloan.

Sloan 6-5Charles Sloan was the son of a very prosperous and wealthy Baltimore merchant, James Sloan, whose house was on the site of the present Courthouse on the Battle Monument Square. He was born on March 18, 1798.

There is very little information about Sloan’s early years, other than that he adopted medicine as his profession and became a doctor. He moved to New Orleans to study yellow fever which was raging in the country at that time. It is thought that Dr. Sloan answered the call of the Mayor of Baltimore to help find a cause and a cure, and went to New Orleans where the disease was at its height and where he died at age 23.

The portrait was probably painted around 1819 or 1820, just before Sloan left for New Orleans. It represents “a simple but strong manner the attractive face of a young physician, and is a portrait to be prized most highly.”

The portrait was given to the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland by Frank Frick in memory of his brother, Dr. Charles Frick, who was named after Charles Sloan.

This is Horace Hayden, the founder of the first dental college in the United States, at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Hayden was born on October 13, 1769 at Windsor, Connecticut. After working as a cabin boy, carpenter, architect, and schoolteacher, influenced by John Greenwood, he turned to dentistry. In 1800, Dr. Hayden began a dental practice in Baltimore Maryland. He was well versed in anatomy, physiology, and the medical sciences.

Dr. Hayden was issued a license by the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland in 1810, the first for the practice of dentistry in America. During the War of 1812, he served as a private in the 39th Regiment, Maryland Militia, and later as an assistant surgeon.

Between 1819 and 1825, he delivered a series of lectures on dentistry to medical students at the University of Maryland, the first in the new world. Dr. Hayden was one of the founders of the Maryland Academy of Sciences and served as its president in 1825. In 1820, as a pioneer geologist and botanist, he published the first general work on geology to be printed in the United States. He discovered a new mineral, named Hadenite in his honor.

In 1839, he was the involved in establishing the American Journal of Dental Science, the world's first dental journal, eventually the official organ of the society. Dr. Hayden, architect of American system of dental education and organizer of professional dentistry died on January 25th, 1844 “mainly of overwork” and is buried in Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore.

This Rembrandt Peale portrait was given to MedChi by Mrs. Mary Parkhurst Hayden in 1934. “In Dr. Horace H. Hayden, rich colors, strongly realized physical presence, and tight composition reveal Rembrandt's effort to paint a meaningful picture as well as a specific likeness.”

This is Edward Harris, and the painting is attributed to Rembrandt Peale. Unfortunately, we do not have much information about Harris. This painting is currently in my office, where he gazes over my shoulder as I work.

Edward Harris was a doctor in Baltimore City in the early 1800’s. He had offices on Baltimore Street between Howard and Eutaw Streets, from at least 1810 to 1818.

This painting was a gift of Mrs. Robert Sloan, great-great granddaughter. She thought that Dr. Harris was a founder of the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty, but there’s no record of him even being a member of MedChi. She also thought that the portrait was by Rembrandt Peale. The portrait hung in MedChi’s Annapolis office from 1997 to 2010(ish).

There is a secretary desk in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that was originally owned by Dr. Edward Harris. The information they have is as follows: Dr. Edward Harris, Queen Anne's County, Maryland to Severn Teackle Wallis, Baltimore, from ca. 1886 to his niece, Mrs. James Fortescue Giffen, Baltimore to her daughter, Mrs. Louise Giffen Fishburn, Baltimore, until 1934 when it was acquired by the Metropolitan.

We are most fortunate to have these paintings in our collection.

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