The provenance for this miniature after Gilbert Stuart can be traced back to the artist Thomas Sully, in whose family it remained until 1914. Sully was deeply influenced by Stuart, with whom he studied for several weeks in the summer of 1807. (He later recalled that “the greatest privilege of his life was to stand by Stuart’s chair as he painted.”) Shortly after, Sully made a small scale copy of one of the elder artist’s full-length portraits of George Washington. Like his role model, Sully went on to make numerous Washington portraits throughout his extremely prolific career, including a large-scale copy of the Athenaeum portrait in 1855. This portrait pays true homage to Stuart’s work even in method: it differs from most miniatures in having the rectangular format, style and brushwork of a traditional oil portrait. Sully’s daughter called it “one of the best examples of his miniature work.”
A rectangular bust-length miniature portrait of George Washington in civilian dress, three-quarters turned. It is lit from the proper right. His blue eyes gaze out toward the viewer, but they are slightly out of alignment. Washington’s face is thin, and the beginnings of a beard is suggested with blue tones; his powdered hair is highlighted with opaque white. It is worn ‘en queue’ with a black sawtooth hair ribbon. He wears a white shirt with a finely painted lace jabot, highlighted with opaque white, under his blue-black velvet coat.
The ground is painted with long brushstrokes in variegated olive green, with a small area of Kelly green to the right, below Washington’s head. It is framed with an ormolu mat in a brown leather case lined with maroon velvet and closed with two clasps.
Ivory (?), ormolu, wood, leather, velvet, glass
Other (Miniature): 3 1/8 in. × 2 5/8 in. × 5/8 in. (7.94 cm × 6.67 cm × 1.59 cm)
Overall (Including bezel): 5 1/4 in. × 4 5/8 in. × 5/8 in. (13.34 cm × 11.75 cm × 1.59 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Lyttleton B. P. Gould, Jr., M. Chapin Krech, Dr. Shepard Krech, Alvin W. Krech, Peter Chapin, Charles Chapin, and Mrs. Charles Merrill Chapin, III, in memory of Esther Maria Lewis Chapin, 1986
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