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This portrait in pastels of Martha Washington by English artist James Sharples was drawn from life when Mrs. Washington was 64. Sharples reportedly produced his pastel portraits relatively quickly—within several hours—and yet their characterizations of the sitters were generally superb. A number of sources suggest that Sharples’s supposedly mathematically correct proportions were derived with the use of a physiognotrace, a type of pantograph.
Likely produced in Philadelphia in 1796, this likeness was displayed in Mount Vernon’s Front Parlor together with the artist’s pastels of George Washington, Martha's grandchildren, Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis, and the Marquis de Lafayette's son, Georges Washington Motier Lafayette. Following Mrs. Washington’s death, the set was inherited by George Washington Parke Custis, and hung at Arlington House until the Civil War. More


c. 1796




Pastel on laid paper


Overall: 9 7/8 in. x 7 7/8 in. (25.08 cm x 20 cm)


Purchase, 1954

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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