This striking half-length portrait of George Washington was executed by Charles Peale Polk, a nephew of prominent artists Charles Willson Peale and James Peale. Orphaned at a young age, Polk was both raised and taught by Charles Willson Peale, who painted Washington from life on numerous occasions. Though Polk wrote to Washington in August 1790 requesting the “Honorable priveledge of One Short Setting from the President to enable him to finish a portrait of your Excellency…” it is unlikely such a sitting occurred. This work is instead likely based on a composite by James Peale after Charles Willson Peale’s 1787 "Convention" portrait, but includes references to the elder Peale’s Princeton-type portraits. Polk’s paintings reflect the enormous demand for portraiture of the nation's new leader: there are at least 57 including this example, which is numbered 47. More


c. 1790




Oil on canvas; gilt wood


Overall: 36 in. x 29 in. (91.44 cm x 73.66 cm)
Overall (Frame): 46 3/8 in. × 39 1/2 in. × 4 3/4 in. (117.79 cm × 100.33 cm × 12.07 cm)
Overall (Sight): 35 3/4 in. × 28 5/8 in. (90.81 cm × 72.71 cm)


Purchased with funds donated by Donald and Nancy de Laski, Adrienne Mars, Vice Regent for Wyoming, A. Alfred Taubman Acquisition Endowment Fund, and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, 2009


“C.s Polk/ No. 47 Painter,” in black paint on the relined canvases’ verso--presumably by a later hand copying the inscription on the original canvas verso. (Slightly visible through the Foamcore backing board.)

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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