© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Sarah Miriam Peale was one of the first professional female artists in the United States. Active in Baltimore and Philadelphia during the 1820s, she gained fame for her portraits and still lifes. This painting, one of Peale’s greatest works, portrays fruit in an ideal, unblemished state. No bruises or dents mar the melons, peaches, or grapes assembled on the table; rather, each is rendered as an exquisite, glistening jewel.

The Peale family occupies a unique position in the annals of American art history. Under the direction of the painter, naturalist, and museum proprietor Charles Willson Peale, ten members of the family became prolific, well-regarded painters. Sarah Miriam trained with her father, James Peale, a miniaturist and still-life painter. Her cousin Raphaelle Peale also had a significant influence on her work, and may have helped paint the grape leaves and watermelon in this painting.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Sarah Miriam Peale, American (Philadelphia, PA 1800-1885 Philadelphia, PA)
Raphaelle Peale, American (Annapolis, MD 1774 - 1825 Philadelphia, PA)
Still Life with Watermelon
Other Titles
Former Title: Still Life--Water-melon, etc.
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Level 2, Room 2410, South Arcade
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Oil on panel
46.4 x 67 cm (18 1/4 x 26 3/8 in.)
frame: 63.5 x 85.7 x 7.6 cm (25 x 33 3/4 x 3 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l.: Sarah M. Peale 1822
  • inscription: verso, right side of frame, white chalk: [possibly an illegible letter] LEVY
Probably [John Levy Galleries, New York]. [Norman Hirschl, New York, NY, 1951], sold; to private collector, New York, NY, by descent; sold; to [Hollis Taggart Gallery, New York, NY, 2006], sold; to Harvard Art Museums, 2006
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Daniel A. Pollack, Class of 1960, American Art Acquisition Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
Publication History

Anna Wells Rutledge, Cumulative Record of Exhibition Catalogues: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1807-1870; The Society of Artists, 1800-1814; The Artists’ Fund Society, 1835-1845. (Philadelphia, PA, 1955), p. 169, no. 452

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), ill. p. 136

Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report 2006-7 (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 18

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. and Melissa Renn, American Paintings at Harvard, Volume One: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826, Yale University Press and Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge and New Haven, 2014), pp. 35, 395-97, cat. 358, ill.

Exhibition History

Eleventh Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 05/01/1822 - 05/31/1822

Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

GenEd US12 American Encounters: Art, Contact, and Conflict, 1560-1860 (S427) Spring 2012, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 05/12/2012

32Q: 2410 South Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 08/01/2018

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu