Several artworks in Crystal Bridges twentieth century have been relocated to the Museum’s Late Nineteenth-Century Gallery
Museum Officials Dealing with Overnight Break-In: April Fools Prank?
April 1, 2016
volunteerspotlight_nanciannanott
Volunteer Spotlight: Nancianna Nott
April 2, 2016
Show all

The True Inspiration for the Teenage Ninja Turtles

Photo illustration based on Charles Willson Peale, Portrait of Raphaelle Peale, ca. 1817, oil on canvas. Private collection; original photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo illustration based on Charles Willson Peale, Portrait of Raphaelle Peale, ca. 1817, oil on canvas. Private collection; original photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo illustration based on Charles Willson Peale, Portrait of Raphaelle Peale, ca. 1817, oil on canvas. Private collection; original photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo illustration based on Charles Willson Peale, Portrait of Raphaelle Peale, ca. 1817, oil on canvas. Private collection; original photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Everybody knows that the “heroes in a half-shell” have names that one would find in an art history book. But what very few realize is these names, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo, don’t refer to well-known Italian renaissance artists, as previously believed. The origin of these names is much closer to home.

Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, met in an introduction to drawing class in 1982 and immediately bonded over their shared interest of radioactive comic-book heroes: most notably, Frank Miller’s Daredevil. Soon after they had established a friendship, they started working together on an idea for their first comic-book collaboration.

After a few unsuccessful books based on the crime fighting exploits of Rubens and a time-traveling romance graphic novel about Angelica Kauffman, they struck gold during an art appreciation class when the instructor went off-topic and started telling the class about Charles Wilson Peale’s little-known turtle sanctuary, his interest in Eastern martial arts, and his tendency to name his children after Italian Renaissance painters.

The rest is history.

The Peale family of Philadelphia are an early American art dynasty, with several members of the family working as painters and early museum curators. Brothers Charles Willson Peale and James Peale, Sr., painted throughout the colonial and revolutionary eras.  Both brothers fathered children, both male and female, who became celebrated American artists in their own rights. These include Charles’ sons Rembrandt, Raphaelle, Titian, and Rubens, and James’ daughters Anna Claypoole and Margaretta Angelica. Charles Willson Peale founded one of the first museums in the United States, the Peale Museum, in Philadelphia in 1786. It was here that he cultivated his little-known turtle sanctuary that inspired Eastman and Laird to create the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles some 200 years later.

Editor’s Note: Charles Willson Peale’s portrait George Washington, ca. 1780-1782, is on loan to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC for the remainder of 2016. Soon, Crystal Bridges will exhibit Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of his younger brother, Rubens Peale, in our Colonial to Early Nineteenth-Century Gallery. On view nearby is James Peale’s The Ramsey-Polk Family at Carpenter’s Point, Cecil County, Maryland ca. 1793, and Raphaelle Peale’s Corn and Cantaloupe, ca. 1813.

Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825) Corn and Cantaloupe, ca. 1813 Oil on panel Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825)
Corn and Cantaloupe, ca. 1813
Oil on panel Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

 

James Peale (1749-1831) The Ramsay-Polk Family at Carpenter's Point, Cecil County, Maryland, ca. 1793 Oil on canvas Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

James Peale (1749-1831)
The Ramsay-Polk Family at Carpenter’s Point, Cecil County, Maryland,
ca. 1793
Oil on canvas Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

shane.richey@crystalbridges.org'
Shane Richey
Digital Media Manager

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *