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The Cover
October 26, 2005

James Peale (The Lamplight Portrait)

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2005;294(16):1999. doi:10.1001/jama.294.16.1999

Each day is a little shorter than the one before, each evening a little longer. Lamps are lit sooner and extra oil is added to the reservoir. Eyesight is dimmer, but memories are keener, as sharp sometimes as the new cider in the barn. It is autumn, the nostalgia-breeding season, the time for family and photo albums under the lamplight. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), the patriarch of the 18th-century Philadelphia family, whose members helped shape both American painting and science for nearly a century and a quarter, evokes the mood brilliantly and with great economy in James Peale (The Lamplight Portrait) (cover ). When the painting was executed, the artist was an octogenarian, the subject a septuagenarian. They were the eldest and youngest of the six children of Charles Peale, who had fled to Virginia in 1736 to escape embezzlement charges brought against him in England. Both sons became painters and each sired a line of other painters, pastellists, miniaturists, and, not least, museum curators that stretched from Colonial times well into America’s Gilded Age in the 1880s.