I nearly gave up on this painting.

I started it when my friend and mentor?John Morra?suggested that I re-create a favorite painting. That is, I should find and assemble similar elements, and paint my own version. Doing so, he said, would give me even more insight than making a simple copy. He was right.
I have long admired the American painter Raphaelle Peale (1774 - 1825), the first great American still life artist. For my re-creation, I chose A Dessert?from the National Gallery collection.

A Lesson from Raphelle Peale,?oil on linen panel 10.5" x 16"

So why did it take so long, and why did I nearly give up?

First, I needed to find the right props. I found the perfect?antique glass, and a decanter very close to the one?in the original. (The decanter arrived from England with some breakage, but I made it work.) I had slim chances of finding orange leaves in Alaska, but then I visited relatives in Florida, so I got my leaves..
I had no trouble with the food elements, except that no one sells raisins on the vine. It took a few hours, but I was able to use the leftover twigs from table grapes and a toothpick to assemble a fair copy.

However, the dish eluded me.

It looks quite ordinary, but in fact nothing like it seems to exist in the great eBay world, or other antique sources. This is where I understood how carefully Raphaelle Peale constructed?his arrangement. No other dish would work, no matter how many I tried. The entire composition is finely balanced on that dish. I bought several likely candidates, and none did the job.
I finally gave up and just copied his dish.

When I compared my painting to Raphaelle Peale's, I experienced some doubt.

He achieved a soft subtlety that seemed beyond my range. I had already learned much from the exercise, so I set the painting aside for about a year. Then, two friends saw it, still unfinished, in my studio. They encouraged me to persevere, so?I took courage.?I tackled the problem areas, and they purchased the finished piece.

I'm pleased to?report that, before they bought it, they visited the National Gallery in Washington, D.C to see the Raphaelle Peale's??A?Dessert. Click on the title to view?the painting, and to read more about Raphaelle Peale.


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