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“George Washington” Lansdowne Portrait by Gilbert Stuart

"George Washington" Lansdowne Portrait by Gilbert Stuart

“George Washington” Lansdowne Portrait by Gilbert Stuart

This portrait of “George Washington,” also known as the Lansdowne Portrait, is an iconic portrait of the first President of the United States.

The picture was painted from life and showed Washington at 64 years of age, renouncing a third term as U.S. President. Replicas of this original, painted by Stuart, are on display in the White House and some other national institutions.

This portrait was commissioned by one of the wealthiest men in the U.S., when, and was given to the British Prime Minister, who later became the first Marquess of Lansdowne.

It was a gift of appreciation, as he had supported the independence of the colonies in Parliament, and he succeeded in securing peace with America during his term as Prime Minister of Great Britain. In 2001, it was purchased for $20 million and returned to the U.S.

The painting is full of ancient and contemporary symbolism, including:

  • An outstretched hand-held up with oratorical symbolism.
  • A row of  Doric columns referring to ancient republics and democracies.
  • Washington’s black velvet suit is not ornate and not royal.
  • The sword he holds on his left side is a dress sword and not a battle sword, symbolizing a democratic form of government, and not a monarchy or military dictatorship.
  • In the sky, storm clouds appear on the left while a rainbow appears on the right, signifying that war was giving way to peace and prosperity.
  • The medallion at the top of the chair shows the colors of the American flag.
  • On the table are books referring to the Federalist Papers and Journal of Congress.
  • Another set of books is under the table. The three to the right are General Orders, American Revolution, and Constitutional By-laws, symbolizing Washington’s leadership as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and president of the Constitutional Convention.
  • The pen and paper on the table signify the rule of law.
  • The table’s leg is shaped like a fasces, an ancient Roman symbol of power and authority or imperium.
  • On the far left of the table is a silver inkwell, emblazoned with George Washington’s coat of arms.
  • A white quill rests upon silver dogs, ancient symbols of loyalty.

A replica of the Lansdowne portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart that hangs in the East Room of the White House.

Gilbert Charles Stewart

Gilbert Stuart is considered one of America’s foremost portraitists. His best-known work is the unfinished portrait of George Washington that is sometimes called The Athenaeum.

His image of George Washington featured in the painting has appeared on the United States one-dollar bill for more than a century and on various U.S. postage stamps.

George Washington, Lansdowne Portrait

  • Title:             George Washington, Lansdowne Portrait
  • Artist:           Gilbert Stuart
  • Year:             1796
  • Medium:       Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:  247.6 × 158.7 cm (97.5 × 62.5 in)
  • Museum:      National Portrait Gallery;  White House

Portraits of Presidents of the United States

Beginning with President George Washington, it has been traditional for the United States president to have an official portrait taken during their time in office, most commonly an oil painting.

This tradition has continued to modern times. Presidents will often display the official portraits of former presidents whom they admire in the Oval Office.

The National Portrait Gallery has been collecting and preserving presidential portraits since its creation in 1962.

Portraits of Presidents of the United States

Gilbert Charles Stewart

George Washington: Reading the Lansdowne Portrait

A Tour of the National Portrait Gallery of America

Conservation of the Lansdowne Portrait

Explore Museums in Washington, D.C.

Hidden Clues You May Have Missed in Washington’s Portrait

Exploring George Washington in Art

The Lansdowne Portrait of George Washington

The Lansdowne Portrait

~~~

“Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
– George Washington

~~~


Photo Credit: 1)Gilbert Stuart [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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