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George Washington

Gilbert Stuart portrayed George Washington several times in thIs stately, full-length portrait format known as the "grand manner," initially reserved for royalty and military or public figures. In this case he modeled the setting and pose on a late seventeenth-century French portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud/ Representing Washington in the classical pose of an orator (with arm extended), Stuart added a sword, symbolic of the first president's mIlitary victories, paying homage to the leader's achievements as general and statesman. The dramatic setting of columns and billowing drapery is typical of European grandmanner portraits, but Stuart included American details such as the books leaning against the table leg: Richard Snowden's American Revolution (1793–94), Constitution and Laws of the United States, and The Federalist (1787), a collection of essays in support of the Constitution. The added symbolism of the rainbow in the background referred to the era of peace following the Revolution, during Washington's term as president. Stuart's portrait was copied many times, and his original was reproduced in a popular print that led to the image's fame.

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