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This unique likeness of George Washington by English artist James Sharples, showing Washington in civilian dress in an oval, is believed to have been drawn from life. Sharples apparently produced his pastel portraits relatively quickly—within several hours—and yet their characterizations of the sitters were generally superb. A number of sources suggest that Sharples’s supposedly mathematically correct proportions were derived from the use of a physiognotrace, a type of pantograph. Likely produced in Philadelphia in 1796, this portrait was displayed in Mount Vernon’s Front Parlor together with the artist's pastel portraits of Martha Washington, Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis, and the Marquis de Lafayette's son, Georges Washington Lafayette. Following Martha Washington’s death, the set was inherited by George Washington Parke Custis, and hung at Arlington House until the Civil War. More


c. 1796




Pastel on laid paper


Overall: 9 15/16 in. x 7 7/8 in. (25.24 cm x 20 cm)


Purchase, 1954

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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