Charles Willson Peale painted this portrait of George Washington for Elias Boudinot of New Jersey, a fellow officer and friend of Washington, signer of the Declaration of Independence, President of the Continental Congress, and trustee of Princeton University (then known as the College of New Jersey). It is based on Peale’s 1779 commission from the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, and is one of at least 18 replicas Peale executed between 1779 and 1781 depicting Washington at the Battle of Princeton. The battle, fought on January 3, 1777, marked the first time in open combat that American troops broke a British line. Washington himself rode at the head of his troops, in direct fire, seemingly invincible. Peale knew Washington’s leadership at Princeton well, as he served in the battle and saw fire at Princeton. Here, he portrayed the victorious general standing at ease with Princeton's Nassau Hall in the background. His stance and bearing express an unshakable confidence in America's cause.
Vertical, rectangular, three-quarter-length portrait of George Washington in military uniform as commander in chief, his head and body turned slightly to the proper right as he looks to the proper left. He wears a navy blue coat with buff-colored facings, gold buttons and gold epaulettes decorated with three silver stars, with a buff-colored waistcoat and a white shirt ruffle. A bright blue silk sash is worn diagonally across his body from over his proper left shoulder. He stands in a contrapposto stance with his weight on his proper right leg. His proper left hand rests on the barrel of a cannon; his proper right arm is bent at the elbow and his (gloved) proper right hand holds a black tricorn hat at his hip. At Washington’s proper left, and facing toward the proper right, an officer in a navy blue coat with red collar and facings holds the bridle of a chestnut brown horse with a white star. A navy blue battle flag with a circle of 13 white stars flies just above their heads, and the tips of several bayonets appear between the figures. In the background at proper right, a dozen figures-- Continental soldiers guarding British soldiers -- march toward the center. Behind them are a group of six buildings, the central and largest of them representing Nassau Hall. Surrounding the buildings is a golden to orange glow; above them the sky appears blue with pink and gray clouds, becoming dark maroon-brown at the upper edges. A dead tree is painted at lower proper right foreground; just below it is the artist’s signature.
The canvas is glazed in a period, possibly original, gilt wood frame.
Oil on canvas; gilt wood; glass
Overall: 51 in. x 39 in. (129.54 cm x 99.06 cm)
Overall (Frame): 57 in. × 49 1/2 in. × 3 1/2 in. (144.78 cm × 125.73 cm × 8.89 cm)
Overall (Sight): 49 1/4 in. × 42 in. (125.1 cm × 106.68 cm)
Bequest of Jane J. Boudinot, 1927
Signed, dated and inscribed at lower right: "CWPeale pinx:t 1780 at Phi:a".
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