A Silent Life by Sarah Miriam Bell, the first professional female painter in the United States, sets a new auction record for the artist

plate by Sarah Miriam BellThe first female professional artist in the United States set a new auction record for a 19th-century painter, selling for $277,200 at Christie’s New York earlier this month.

The Watermelon Still Life of 1822 beat the high estimate of $60,000 by 462 percent, fueled by a seven-person bidding war involving foundations and private collectors, according to the auction house. News of the sale was first reported by Herstory Art Notes on me Instagram.

“Important paintings like this one are rare,” Caroline Seibault, head of American Art Sale at Christie’s, told Artnet News in an email, noting that watermelon is “one of her signature subjects.” The painting previously sold for $42,900 at Sotheby’s New York in 1989.

The result was even more impressive given Bell’s recent auction troubles. Yesterday, two small oil paintings, one of them Cherry and the other who raspberry (estimates $8,000 to $15,000), not sold in “AmericanaSale at Sotheby’s New York. Other recently purchased collections include photos shown at Freeman In Philadelphia this past May and April 2018 and in North Carolina Little Leyland Auctions in December 2019.

سارة ميريام بيل ، <em data-recalc-dims= basket with berries (about 1860). Courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.” width=”916″ height=”1024″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/download-2-916×1024.jpeg 916w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/download-2-916×1024.jpeg 916w, https http://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/download-2-268×300.jpeg 268w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/download- 2-45×50.jpeg 45w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/download-2.jpeg 1024w” sizes=”(max-width: 916px) 100vw, 916px”/>

Sarah Miriam Bell basket with berries (about 1860). The painting fetched an estimated $10,000-$15,000, but failed to find a buyer. Courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

According to the newspaper, the previous Pell auction record of $61,900 has held steady since 1996. Artnet price database. The only works by the artist to have sold for more than $3,500 since 2014 are $22,500. mother and child Selfie in 2021. As recently as 2018, a selfie sold for just $750.

Bell, who lived from 1800 to 1885, had a daughter James Bella well-known miniaturist and the younger brother of Charles Wilson Bell, one of the most successful artists in the early US. The Peale family can rightfully be called the first family of American art, with an artistic tradition that spans three generations.

Charles Wilson Peale is perhaps most famous for his nearly 60 portraits of George Washington, including the first known depiction of the nation’s first president. The Peale family patriarch has fetched an auction-high $21.29 million for one of eight editions of the Peale family. His famous painting of 1779And George Washington at Princetonat Christie’s New York in 2006.

تشارلز ويلسون بيل ، <em data-recalc-dims= Washington at Princeton (1779). Collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. ” width=”653″ height=”1024″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/880px-George_Washington_at_Princeton-PAFA-653×1024.jpeg 653w, https://news .artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/880px-George_Washington_at_Princeton-PAFA-191×300.jpeg 191w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/880px-George_Washington_at_Princeton- PAFA-32×50.jpeg 32w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/880px-George_Washington_at_Princeton-PAFA.jpeg 880w” sizes=”(max-width: 653px) 100vw, 653px” />

Charles Wilson Bell, Washington at Princeton (1779). Collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The pioneers of the still life in the United States were the Bayles, with the eldest surviving son of Charles Wilson Peale, Raphael Bellwho is considered the first professional painter in the country.

Drawing on family strengths, Sarah Miriam Bell was adept at still life and portraiture. Never married, she operated her own painting studio for decades, first in Baltimore and then in St. Louis.

Her arrival in Missouri in 1847 was announced at St. Louis Weekly Revelwhich wrote that “Miss Sarah M. Peel intends to visit our city as autumn approaches, for the purpose of painting several pictures. Four specimens of this lady’s pencil are now in the Bank of Missouri, and clearly prove her title of first among American artists.”

Bell lived there until 1878, when she finally returned to her native Philadelphia.

Over the course of her long life, Bell forged a career unparalleled by women artists in the United States. She had more than 100 commissions in Baltimore, becoming the city’s most famous portrait painter. Following in her uncle’s footsteps in painting military leaders, Belle also had four portrait sessions with the Marquis de Lafayette, a Frenchman who served as a general in the Continental Army.

سارة ميريام بيل ، <em data-recalc-dims= Self-portrait (about 1818). Collection from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. ” width=”812″ height=”1024″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/8400356a-812×1024.jpeg 812w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/8400356a-238×300.jpeg 238w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/8400356a-40×50 .jpeg 40w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/8400356a.jpeg 1024w” sizes=”(max-width: 812px) 100vw, 812px”/>

Sarah Miriam Bell Selfie (about 1818). Collection from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Bell’s oil on watermelon painting was the third most expensive piece in “From Bell to Peto: American Professors from the Pollack GroupSelling, eclipsed only by other members of the Bell Dynasty: Raphael Bell still life For $352,800, and One of 57 copies Charles Bell Polkson of Elizabeth Digby Bell, Bell’s aunt, by his wife Portrait of George Washingtonfor $630,000.

“Sarah Bell is finally getting the attention she deserves as a painter and pioneer,” added Seiboldt, hailing her as “one of the finest artists in the Bell family.”

Similar billboardof melons accompanied by peaches, grapes and smaller aphids, has been in the Harvard Art Museums collection since 2006. The foundation purchased the piece, which it calls “one of Peale’s greatest works”, from Hollis’s New York Taggart Gallery.

Charles Wilson Peale named many of his 18 children after famous artists, several of them – most notably Rembrandt BellThey continue to have their own artistic careers. But while three of Bell’s daughters had female grandmaster names (Angelica KaufmanAnd Sophonisba AnguissolaAnd Rosalba Career), does not seem to have encouraged them to pursue art.

Instead, it was Sarah Miriam Bell and her sisters who took up the mantle. (The third generation of Peales will see two more women join the fold: Rosalba Carrera Belland daughter of Rembrandt Pell Mary Jane Belldaughter of Charles Wilson Bell’s son Robbins Bell.)

Sarah Miriam Bell, Cherry (c. 1860).  The painting fetched an estimated $8,000–12,000, but failed to find a buyer.  Courtesy of Sotheby's New York.

Sarah Miriam Bell Cherry (about 1860). The painting fetched an estimated $8,000–12,000, but failed to find a buyer. Courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

Charles Wilson Peel wrote in a letter to Raphael Peel in 1818, proudly noting his teenage niece and her eldest sister: Anna Claypool Bellwas the subject of “praise by news paper critics.”

Along with Anna, a miniaturist, Bell was the first woman elected to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

their middle sister, Margarita Angelica Bellon the family tradition of still-life painting, with works selling for as much as $91,000 at auction, in 2008. But after a 14-year absence from the market, three paintings offered in 2022 have not preserved their price point. Those — one was bought though an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000, and the others sold for $32,760 and $27,720.

Anna Claypool Bell has topped $10,000 at auction only once, with an unassigned oil painting of a self-portrait at Sotheby’s New York in 2013. Neither sister comes close to the $785,000 fetched by one of their father’s businesses at Christie’s New York in 2015.

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