This book begins with a discussion of Charles Willson Peale's Artist in His Museum, which traditionally marks the end of an era. Huge in scale and dense with imagery, the painting offers both an autobiographical summary of Peale's talents and a calculated visualization of his renowned Philadelphia Museum. Surrounded by emblems of his achievements in art and science—a palette and brushes, excavated bones, a dead turkey draped over a taxidermy box—the elderly Peale lifts a heavy red curtain, his illuminated head bowed slightly in greeting and his palm extended in welcome. The curtain frames a view of the organized and impossibly deep space of the museum's Long Room, the main gallery on the second floor of the Pennsylvania State House.
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