New England artist William Matthew Prior painted this distinctive view of Mount Vernon, one of a group of at least thirteen, in the mid-nineteenth century. Now generally considered a folk artist, Prior structured the sale of his paintings based on their degree of finish. Prior based his Mount Vernon views on several widely-published engravings after W.H. Brooke featuring the new tomb, old tomb and mansion. This unusual painting combines elements from two substantially different engravings after Brooke with the Birds-Eye View of Mount Vernon chromolithograph published by G. and F. Bill in 1859 after the Mount Vernon Ladies Association acquired the property. The resulting image is an entirely invented landscape, with dual—and dueling—perspectives.


Horizontal landscape view of Mount Vernon at evening with the new tomb and obelisks, and a horse and rider in the foreground. The tomb is a brick color, with the arched doorway and metal gate outlined in black. Bands of light emanate from the tomb, with black lines of cast shadows. The two front obelisks are gated; all are highlighted with lighter shades implying a light source from the left. The rider on a dark brown horse wears a blue jacket and black hat and trousers and appears below and facing toward the “summer house” pavilion. In front of the rider there is the suggestion of a line of flowering plants via daubs of orange and yellow paint. To the right is a large vine-wrapped tree. The mansion, out buildings, and orchards appear in the background; this area is painted from a different perspective than the foreground scene. Many different shades of green are used for the trees and plants, and black dotted lines delineate the orchards. At right, mauve mountains designate the Maryland shore, and 11 sailboats appear in the Potomac River below them; a steamship is at mid-ground, along the coastline. The sky is painted in shades of pale blue, pale pink and violet, with cream and brown-black clouds.

It is glazed, in a gilt wood frame.


c. 1859




Oil on canvas; gilt wood; glass


Overall (H x W x D): 26 5/8 in. × 32 5/8 in. × 3 1/2 in. (67.63 cm × 82.87 cm × 8.89 cm)
Other (H x W Sight): 18 3/4 in. × 25 in. (47.63 cm × 63.5 cm)

Credit Line

Purchase, 1993

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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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