They searched for the perfect painting.
"We had looked at a whole range of floral still lifes, as she loved gardening and flowers," says
Lawton thought that the best thing would be a
But almost a exactly a year after Stevenson's death, Lawton found the perfect tribute at the Winter Antiques Fair in
The painting, Peaches and Grapes in a Chinese Export Basket, had been owned by a family and passed down through its generations. But in 2012, it was offered for sale by a
"It was like divine intervention," Lawton said. "These never come on the market, and there it was."
The lovely painting of fruit in a porcelain bowl "is perfect for the [Carter] collection as
"I think Mrs. Stevenson would be very happy to know this is in the collection. She felt so strongly about still life painting, and her two loves, art and horticulture, are commingled here."
Raphaelle, though, is the Peale to collect. During his lifetime, there were few buyers for still lifes, but sales of portraits of wealthy burghers and heroes of the American Revolution were brisk, and the Peales who specialized in portraits had a secure income. Raphaelle did not have the social skills for portraiture and preferred to meticulously paint inanimate objects.
He was ill for all of his adult life, and his output was limited.
"Only about 50 of these still lifes have survived," Lawton said. Now, Peale is considered the first professional American still life painter, and the value of his work is considerably higher than that of his siblings or his father.
Peaches and Grapes in a Chinese Export Basket has been cleaned and varnished. It will be placed in the first gallery of the museum, the one with the portrait of Stevenson. Later it will move in with the Carter's other still lifes.
The painting will go on exhibit Tuesday.
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