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. Best-known as a portraitist, he began producing landscapes following the advent of photography, and focused on three main themes: Mount Vernon, winter scenes, and night or moonlight scenes. Prior based his Mount Vernon views on a widely-published engraving after W.H. Brooke featuring the new tomb, old tomb and mansion. Each of the works in the Mount Vernon collection is different, showing the estate in different seasons as well as times of day. This painting is the darkest of the Mount Vernon Priors, and represents one of the artist’s so-called “moonlight” or night scenes. These depictions of Mount Vernon at night are extremely unusual among the numerous nineteenth-century images of the site, yet were apparently a popular melding of two of Prior’s specialties, as more of them exist than his comparable daylit canvases. More


c. 1850




Oil on canvas; gilt wood


Overall (H x W x D): 26 1/2 in. × 31 1/2 in. × 3 3/8 in. (67.31 cm × 80.01 cm × 8.57 cm)
Other (H x W): 18 1/2 in. × 25 1/2 in. (46.99 cm × 64.77 cm)


Purchase, 1993


A note in the curatorial file indicates that this painting bears the artist’s stencil, though it is not presently visible.

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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