“On September 13, 1814, as the War of 1812 embarked on its third year, Francis Scott Key, an established Georgetown lawyer, traveled to Baltimore to negotiate the release of a hostage. Upon boarding a ship in the city's harbor, he was detained by British forces during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, which lasted into the night. The next morning, Key saw the fort's American flag had not been removed. Inspired by the sight, he wrote the poem ‘Defence of Fort McHenry’ which was set to a British tune and subsequently renamed ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson began playing the song at official events, and in 1931, Congress adapted it as the national anthem.
This painting was made when Key and the artist Rembrandt Peale were young men. Key graduated from college in 1796, and Peale, a son of the renowned Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale, had recently shadowed his father during a portrait session with George Washington.” – National Portrait Gallery
This portrait is a recent (2017) acquisition of the Portrait Gallery. A 1902 copy of it by Dewitt Clinton Peters has hung in the Maryland Historical Society Museum in Baltimore for many years.