"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Sunday, March 13, 2016

George Washington

LE Gal. Washington
A son Ami le Gal. Mis. de Chastellux (1782)

This c. 1780-82 portrait of George Washington at Yorktown by Charles Willson Peale hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.
"The Patriae Pater, the 'Father of His Country': George Washington was the essential figure in winning the Revolutionary War and establishing the United States of America. Through the strength of his character, his willpower and his abilities, Washington was able to unite the diverse colonial interests into a national purpose. It was inevitable that he would be America's first chief executive, chosen unan­imously in the first presidential election of 1788. Essential to the projection of Washington's authority was the work of art­ists like Gilbert Stuart and Charles Willson Peale, who created images of the Virginian from iconic oil paintings to drawings, etchings, and woodcuts that could be widely disseminated to the public. Through these images, Washington was not only celebrated by the American people but his authority as a military and political leader was recognized and reinforced. Image-making played an essential role in legitimizing the new U.S. government and its constitution.

Here, Charles Willson Peale depicts Washington on the field at Yorktown, the battle that ended the Revolutionary War. It was commissioned by the Marquis de Chastellux, a staff officer to the Marquis de Rochambeau, the commander of the French troops in America." -- National Portrait Gallery

Charles Willson Peale

This portrait was originally owned by Chevalier Francois-Jean de Chastellux, revolutionary officer and friend of Washington. 

Marquis De Chastellux

 It was sold by Christie's for $6,167,500 on May 8, 2004. 

"Charles Willson Peale's portrayal of George Washington as the commander of the Continental Army after the triumph at Yorktown stands as a supreme testament to the success of the Franco-American alliance during America's War of Independence. The present work was originally owned by the Chevalier de Chastellux, a general in the French army who had developed a close relationship with Washington and whose military service in America culminated in his participation in the victory at Yorktown. While it was not the final battle of the American Revolution, the decisive defeat of Cornwallis proved instrumental in propelling Great Britain to initiate secret peace negotiations, discussions that in 1783 resulted in the Treaty of Paris, granting unconditional recognition of American independence.

Chastellux's personal ties also played a role in his patronage of the artist, Charles Willson Peale. Chastellux and Peale were not only fellow soldiers under Washington's command, they were also men of enlightenment who held the utmost regard for each other's artistic and literary accomplishments. Thus, this masterful rendition of George Washington is also a window into the intertwined lives and events surrounding its subject, owner and artist--three leading figures of Revolutionary America." -- Christies

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