This miniature of George Washington, likely by Ellen Sharples, is thought to have been owned and worn by Martha Washington, and then given to her granddaughter, Elizabeth Parke Custis Law, in whose family it descended. The work is unique within the large body of Sharples portraits of George Washington: it alone merges the attire of the Continental army uniform portraits with the format of the profile portraits. Washington’s countenance appears nearly majestic, and his image dominates the frame, with very little background shown. He appears handsome and youthful, with softened features.
An oval, bust-length profile portrait facing proper right in polychrome watercolors of George Washington with shoulders slightly turned to the proper left. It is lit from the proper right, and he is shown with blue eyes and a florid complexion accomplished through extensive stippling in warm orange-red pigments. He is wearing a blue Continental army uniform with gold epaulettes, buff-colored facings and waistcoat, and white stock and lace jabot. There is a suggestion of depth and three-dimensionality in the braids of the epaulettes. Otherwise, the attire is somewhat loosely rendered. No buttons are visible.
His thinning hair is powdered and worn ‘en queue’ with a black queue bag, long sideburns and fullness over the ears. It is painted with fine white lines and hatching over slightly darker gray.
The ground is polychromatic with an overall effect of khaki green.
The case is of gilded copper with a fixed single loop and an empty hair mount on the verso with dark brown fabric encased under glass. The miniature, encircled by a band of gold, is encased under glass and within a very narrow copper band which has been set inside the larger decorative mount casing. The external casing is decorated with an incised foliated pattern, and 13 copper stars and a larger one at the top, on the loop.
Watercolor on ivory (?); gilt copper, glass, silk
Overall: 2 1/2 in. × 1 5/8 in. × 3/16 in. (6.35 cm × 4.13 cm × 0.48 cm)
Gift of Katherine Merle-Smith Thomas, 2010
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