This post comes to us from Chelsea Dickson, Curatorial Intern.
In honor of the anniversary of our nation’s independence, we would like to draw your attention to a particularly fascinating work from the permanent collection, currently on display in the Flora Humphrey Bentley Gallery. In the corner, you will find a familiar portrait of our first president, George Washington. While at first glance it looks like an image printed in virtually every U.S. History textbook, it is when looking closer that things get interesting.
This portrait is a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s (1755-1828) unfinished Atheneum portrait of Washington, so-called because it was purchased by the Boston Atheneum to support Stuart’s poverty stricken family after his death. The original Atheneum portrait was commissioned by Mary Washington but Stuart liked the way he had captured Washington’s likeness so much that he kept it as a model, never delivering it to Mrs. Washington.