Charles Willson Peale’s Portrait of Baron von Humboldt

Meet the Artists of Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture

A portrait of a man.

Charles Willson Peale, Portrait of Baron von Humboldt, 1804, oil on canvas, 21 x 17 in., The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, The image of the Baron Von Humboldt is used by kind permission of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Photograph by Constance Mensh, Copyright 2019 by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

About this Artwork

This portrait of Humboldt, painted by Peale just before the Prussian traveler returned to Europe, hung in his museum in the gallery of eminent Americans. You can see rows of similar small portraits at the top left of Peale’s painting The Artist in His Museum. In a letter to his father-in-law Peale wrote:

I have been richly rewarded for the expence and trouble of a journey by the agreable conversation of Baron Humboldt who is without exception the most extraordinary traveller I ever met with; he is the fountain of knowledge which flows in copius streams— to drop this metaphor to take another, he is a great luminary defusing light on every branch of science—I say defusing, because he is so communicative of his knowledge which he has treasured up by his travels of upwards 19 Years. His company is courted by the learned where ever he goes.