Charles Willson Peale (American, Chester, Maryland 1741–1827 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Oil on canvas
95 x 61 3/4 in. (241.3 x 156.8 cm)
Gift of Collis P. Huntington, 1897
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 753
On January 18, 1779, the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania passed a resolution commissioning a portrait of George Washington for the Council Chamber and selected Charles Willson Peale as the artist. In preparation, Peale traveled to the Princeton and Trenton battlefields in February of 1779 to make sketches for the background. The original portrait, the full-length version now in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, was a tremendous success and Peale completed numerous copies for royal palaces abroad, each time updating the general's military dress. This figure of George Washington was probably painted between June and August of 1780. In every other version, Washington is shown after the Battle of Princeton, but here he is depicted after the Battle of Trenton, the turning point of the war. It has been suggested that this portrait was commissioned upon the order of Mrs. Washington, because it is the only portrait in which Washington wears his state sword and because the painting descended in the Washington family.
The sitter's niece, Harriet (Mrs. Andrew Parks), until 1822; her daughter, Mary Parks (Mrs. Milton Hanford); her cousin, Miss Bell, Tooting, Surrey, England; with Samuel Putnam Avery, Jr., New York, 1896; Collis P. Huntington, New York, 1896–97