Charles Willson Peale invites visitors to appreciate his natural history museum in Philadelphia, the first such museum in the country.
Peale was a naturalist as well as a painter. In 1784 he founded the Philadelphia Museum, which at the time of the painting was in the Long Room of Independence Hall. Being curator of the museum was his main focus and from that time Peale sometimes announced that he would no longer paint, or conversely, that he was returning to painting.
In 1822 he was asked by the museum's trustees to paint a full-length portrait of himself for the museum. He wanted this painting to be a tribute to the quality of his art as well as to show how he brought science and nature to the public.