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Charles Willson Peale, replica of original, 1781-1782

Oil on canvas. H 22 3/8, W 18 1/4 in (H 56.8, W 46.4 cm)
Independence NHP
INDE 14084

About the Man
About this Portrait:
In 1780, before De Kalb left for South Carolina, he commissioned Charles Willson Peale for two half-length portraits. Peale completed the works and shipped them to the sitter's family in Europe. One is now privately owned, the other unlocated. A modern half-length copy is at Versailles. Within a year following De Kalb's death, Peale had painted another portrait of him for the Philadelphia Museum. The museum portrait may represent Peale's response to De Kalb's posthumous congressional honor, a monument in Annapolis, with the idea to start a portrait gallery to commemorate Revolutionary heroes. De Kalb wears a light blue sash with gold medal, the Knight's Cross, third class, of the Order of Military Merit that was created in 1759 for Swiss and German Protestant officers in the French service. The portrait is listed in Peale's October 13, 1784 advertisement for the museum in the Freeman's Journal and Philadelphia Advertiser.

Ownership History:
Listed in the 1795 Peale Museum catalog. Purchased by the City of Philadelphia at the 1854 Peale Museum sale.

e Kalb was born in Huettendorf, Bavaria, on June 19, 1721. This peasants' son later learned French, English, and sufficient social skills to obtain a substantial military commission in the Lowendal Regiment of the French army. He served with this unit throughout the War of Austrian Succession. In 1763, at the battle of Wilhelmstahl, he won the Order of Military Merit that gave him his baronic title.

ive years later, he traveled to America on a secret mission for France to determine the extent of colonial discontent there. With his protégé, the Marquis de Lafayette, De Kalb went to America again in 1777. They joined the Continental Army. De Kalb served in an administrative capacity. During the spring of 1780, he received his first field command. He led the American army to relieve the besieged Charleston, South Carolina. At the battle of Camden later that summer, he was mortally wounded and captured by the British. De Kalb died on August 18, 1780.

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Last Modified: Thursday, October 25, 2001