Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis




Art History

First Advisor

Andrew Graciano


The portraiture of Charles Willson Peale has been examined by many scholars since his career in the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. One neglected aspect of the scholarship is the symbolism and medicinal uses of the natural elements in his portraiture. I explore these elements and the impact they have in the portrait of Benjamin and Eleanor Ridgely Laming. Although past scholars have interpreted this painting as an image of seduction, my research of the plants concludes that it is an image of a couple desiring fertility and domestic bliss. I have found that all of the plants in the image are linked either symbolically or medicinally to fertility of the female body or land. The painting also includes symbolism of domestic bliss and feminine virtue.