Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860)
USA: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Oil on canvas
frame: 42 1/2 in x 35 1/2 in; overall: 35-1/4"h x 28-1/2"w; stretcher: 38 in x 33 in
Gift of John Bartholomew Webster
"Porthole" portrait of President George Washington (1732-1799) in military uniform, facing his right. Set in an oval trompe l'oeil stonework surround; inscribed lower left, on the surround: "Rembrandt Peale." Subject wears a blue coat with yellow collar, epaulettes and lapels and a ruffled white shirt. He has white hair pulled back from his face.
George Washington sat for Rembrandt Peale in the fall of 1795. Peale produced about seventy copies from the original, long after Washington's death. This portrait is derived chiefly from two 1795 portraits from life that were painted by Rembrandt and his father, Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Peale termed it "the Portrait of our National Father." A subsequent version, with Washington wearing a black velvet Senatorial mantle, was purchased by the United States Congress in 1832. It was a heroically-scaled canvas, the spandrel of which contains a mask of the Phidian Zeus (Jupiter) in the keystone and the inscription "Patriae Pater." The copy in the National Heritage Museum collection was painted in 1847 for Henry Paul Beck (the donor's great-grandfather) of Philadelphia, for which Peale charged $125.00 (see the original receipt in the NHM's Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, A75/007/1).