peale museum

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Today is World Book Day, and we’re celebrating with a long-hidden treasure of natural history, The Butterflies of North America: Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript.

Titian Ramsay Peale II (1799–1885) was an American artist and naturalist from a well-known Philadelphia family. His father, historian and painter Charles Willson Peale, founded the Philadelphia Museum. True to his namesake, Titian Peale was a Renaissance man—a painter, naturalist, butterfly collector, explorer, hunter, and early photographer. 

As an adult, Peale was dogged by hardship, including the early death of his first wife and children and persistent financial difficulties. But Peale never gave up on his masterwork, Butterflies of North America, preparing a prospectus in 1833 and continuing to work on it until his death in 1885. A family member donated the manuscript to the Museum in 1916, and after nearly a century in the archives, this masterpiece was finally published in 2015, packed with color plates bearing Peale’s beautiful illustrations of butterflies and caterpillars.

Peale was especially fascinated by the life cycle of butterflies, composing painted portraits of a species with its preferred food and at every developmental stage. The new book captures this abiding interest, reproducing manuscript pages and hundreds of works of art accompanied by field notes.

Learn more about The Butterflies of North America: Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript.

Peale Museum before restoration 
Baltimore, Maryland
September 3, 1930
Photograph by the Hughes Company, Baltimore
8x10 inch black and white negative (one of nine)
Subject Vertical File: Baltimore City - Museums
Maryland Historical Society 
[SVF]

Suggested Photo Series. 

The Peale Museum (also known as the Municipal Museum of Baltimore and the Baltimore City Life Museum) opened in 1814 at 225 North Holliday Street. The museum closed it’s doors in 1997 at which time most of the Peale collection came to the Maryland Historical Society. 

On September 1, readers will be able enjoy a long-hidden treasure of natural history with the release of The Butterflies of North America: Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript. Based on a never-before-published manuscript preserved for nearly a century in the American Museum of Natural History’s Rare Book Collection, the book is packed with color plates bearing Peale’s beautiful illustrations of butterflies and caterpillars.

Titian Ramsay Peale II (1799–1885) was an American artist and naturalist from a well-known Philadelphia family. His father, historian and painter Charles Willson Peale, founded the Philadelphia Museum. He also named three other sons for famous painters: Rembrandt, Rubens, and Raphaelle.

True to his namesake, Titian Peale was a Renaissance man—a painter, naturalist, butterfly collector, explorer, hunter, and early photographer. He painted his first professional commission—plates to attract subscribers to Thomas Say’s American Entomology—at age 16. The next year he was elected to full membership in the newly founded Academy of Natural Sciences.

As an adult, Peale was dogged by hardship, including the early death of his first wife and children and persistent financial difficulties. But Peale never gave up on his masterwork,Butterflies of North America, preparing a prospectus in 1833 and continuing to work on it until his death in 1885. A family member donated the manuscript to the Museum in 1916. After nearly a century in the archives, this masterpiece is finally emerging from its cocoon. 

Read more on the Museum blog.