- Artist/MakerPeale, Raphaelle (1774-1825)
- Date Madec. 1799-1803
- Place Made
- MaterialsWatercolor on ivory <br>3 X 2 1/2 in. (76.2 X 63.5 mm)
- Measurements3" x 2 1/2" (framed: 6" h. x 5 1/4" w.)
- Gift of Ambassador and Mrs. Robert Newbegin
- Accession #1969.0028
General Josiah Harmar
General Josiah Harmar (1753-1813) owes his place in diplomatic history to his role in the exchange of ratifications of the Treaty of Paris (Cat. No. 267). Ratification was required from the legislatures of nine states represented by the Continental Congress. The long process was not completed until mid- January 1784; the deadline for receipt of the ratification in Paris was March 3. Harmar, recently made Colonel, was appointed a bearer of dispatch to deliver the ratification. Winter storms delayed the Atlantic crossing and Harmar placed the document in the hands of Benjamin Franklin on March 29, nearly four weeks late, but the British raised no objections.
On August 12 of the same year, Harmar was appointed commander of "the first national peacetime military force in American history, the progenitor and lineal ancestor of the establishment that has continued until the present. " His small regiment was dispatched to Ohio in a largely unsuccessful attempt to protect the settlements there while driving illegal squatters out of the Northwest Territory. Harmar was brevetted Brigadier General in 1787, and he holds (with Governor Arthur St. Clair) the dubious distinction of waging the first official federal campaign against the Indians (October 1790). In a matter of weeks, he was forced to retreat from the Maumee Valley to Fort Washington (Cincinnati), a substantial setback. "Our loss is heavy, heavy indeed," wrote Harmar. Although he was officially absolved, his reputation was severely damaged and he resigned at the end of 1791.
In the absence of documentation, the dates of execution suggested for his portrait, c. 1799-1803, are based on circumstance and style. Harmar appears to be about fifty years old in the watercolor, possibly somewhat younger. In 1799 he had completed six years of service as Adjutant-General (the officer in charge of a state militia) of Pennsylvania, the last major post of his career. The portrait, therefore, may be a modest valedictory. Raphaelle Peale, eldest child of Charles Willson Peale, though better known today for his still lifes, had painted miniatures at least as early as 1795. He made some of his finest dated miniatures between 1799 and 1801, when he was establishing an independent career in Philadelphia.
Not blind to the advantage of his father's reputation, Raphaelle boldly advertised in The Philadelphia Gazette on September 11, 1800, and must have attracted some clients:
A NAME!/ RAPHAELLE 'PEALErro make himself eminent, will paint MINIATURES, for a short time, at Ten Dollars each-he engages to finish his pictures equally as well for this, as his former prices, and invariably produces/ASTONISHING LlKENESSES.
There is no way to judge the accuracy of his likeness of General Harmar, because no other portrait seems to exist. The direct realism of the miniature is convincing, however, and the work compares well with others of this period. Peale's 1799 portrait of Robert Ken~edy (Vale) is similar in the rumpled, almost careless, drawing of the coat. His 1801 portrait of Henry Ward Pearce (R.W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport, Louisiana) shares the penetrating glance, and the intense image of Benjamin Francis Pearce (1801; also Norton Gallery) most closely approaches the proportionally dominant head of Josiah Harmar.6 All have related backgrounds, in which hatching is used selectively around the upper part of the heads and beside the shoulders, creating an atmospheric effect that enhances the volume of the figure.
Equally characteristic of the artist are the long, free strokes used in the hair and in the face of the Harmar portrait, the emphatic eye sockets, the sloping shoulders, and the pronounced blue tones in the background and the face. Spontaneous, even wayward in his approach, Raphaelle Peale brought an unaccustomed brio and freshness of characterization to the habitually sedate American miniature portrait.
1. This inscription is not autographic. The artist and his family always spelled his first name "Raphaelle," whether on his paintings, including miniatures, or in correspondence. However, his contemporaries often did not, and this old inscription -in script -may be attributable to Harmar or a member of his family.
2. Harold D. Langley, "Early Diplomatic Couriers," American Foreign Service Journal (October 1971), 6-10.
3. Kohn, 60, 63, and passim.
4. Ibid., 106. See also DAB, s.v. "Josiah Harmar."
5. Cikovsky, 24; and Sellers 1969, 291.
6. Elam, 94, figs. 117, 120, 121.