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Unlike European monarchs, George Washington did not commission an official state portrait to proclaim and legitimize his accession to office.

Artists, therefore, faced an unprecedented challenge: How to conceptualize and represent an entirely novel public figure—an ordinary citizen who embodied a fragile national identity, but was only temporarily invested with power by the will of the people?

See the full article in the Winter 2020 issue of the Mount Vernon Magazine, a benefit of being a Mount Vernon Member

A sampling of presidential portraits in the Mount Vernon collection showcases the variety of images that resulted.

American Cincinnatus

Joseph Wright’s plaster medallion portrait bust of George Washington crowned with laurel, the American Cincinnatus, 1783–1785.

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Military Profile

Joseph Wright’s oil portrait of a war-weary commander in chief, 1783.

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French Perspective

Jean Antoine Houdon’s original 1785 clay bust of Washington in 360°.

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Presidential Look

Edward Savage’s initial portrait of Washington in uniform, engraved in 1792.

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Family Keepsake

A London engraving of Robertson’s Washington portrait, 1797.

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Portrait in Silk

One of numerous examples of the Sharples’ pastel portrait of George Washington, c. 1799.

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