Rembrandt Peale’s Portrait of Alexander von Humboldt

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

A portrait of a man sitting.

Rembrandt Peale, Portrait of Alexander von Humboldt, 1809–1812, oil and encaustic on canvas, 22 1/2 x 27 in., Collection of Robert W. Hoge and Immaculada Socias Hoge.

About this Artwork

When Peale’s son Rembrandt visited Paris in 1809 he met and befriended Humboldt, spending as much time with the energetic naturalist as he could. Humboldt’s close friends included a large circle of pro-American Europeans, among them the Marquis de Lafayette, who shared Humboldt’s intense dislike for Napoleon and his equally strong admiration for the United States. As Peale was preparing to return to the United States, Humboldt wrote him a note in which he declared, “I will come finish my life in your country, where I like the inhabitants, the land, and especially your wise constitution.” Humboldt’s description of himself as “half an American” endeared him to many of the men who would establish the Smithsonian Institution.