This portrait of Elizabeth Parke Custis, the eldest granddaughter of Martha Washington, was likely made by Sarah Peale, the renowned portrait painter and daughter of James Peale, in 1836. It is a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s 1796 portrait of Miss Custis, made shortly before her marriage to Englishman Thomas Law. In 1796, Stuart was painting his “Atheneum-style” portrait of George Washington, and Elizabeth often watched his work. According to family tradition, he captured her likeness as she returned from a walk and observed the artist at work. The sitter’s spirit, and the apparent spontaneity of the pose, pervade both Stuart’s portrait (now owned by another descendant) and this faithful rendition of it. Elizabeth’s crossed-arm stance is unusual for a female figure by Stuart, who otherwise used it for male portraits, and it suggests her widely-documented willful personality.



c. 1836




Oil on canvas, gilded wood


Overall (H x W x D, framed): 34 in. x 28 1/2 in. x 2 1/4 in. (86.36 cm x 72.39 cm x 5.72 cm)
Other (H x W x D, sight): 28 1/2 in. × 24 1/8 in. × 1 1/2 in. (72.39 cm × 61.28 cm × 3.81 cm)


Purchased with funds donated by Melody Sawyer Richardson, Vice Regent for Ohio, 2008

Object Number



Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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