On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, From Colonies to States, 1660–1830
Over the course of his career, Gilbert Stuart painted approximately a hundred portraits of George Washington, including four versions (three of which are original replicas) now known as the “Lansdowne” portrait (named after the painting’s first owner). Although the grandiose scale and setting are typical of eighteenth-century European aristocratic portraiture, other allegorical elements allude to the formation of the young republic. Representing Washington in civilian clothing and with his arm outstretched in an oratorical pose, Stuart also included details such as the Great Seal of the United States; a sword and books, such as Constitution and Laws of the United States, that are symbolic of the first president’s military and political accomplishments; as well as a rainbow that refers to the era of peace following the Revolutionary War.
This portrait was owned by the New York merchant William Kerin Constable, who, like Washington, benefited from the institution of slavery while also expressing abolitionist sentiments. Once on view in the family home in nearby Brooklyn Heights, the portrait passed down through Constable’s descendants before it came into the Brooklyn Museum’s collection in 1945.
Oil on canvas
96 1/4 x 60 1/4 in. (244.5 x 153 cm)
frame: 114 1/4 x 78 1/4 x 6 in. (290.2 x 198.8 x 15.2 cm) (show scale)
Dick S. Ramsay Fund and Museum Purchase Fund
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Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828). George Washington, 1796. Oil on canvas, 96 1/4 x 60 1/4 in. (244.5 x 153 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund and Museum Purchase Fund, 45.179 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 45.179_PS11.jpg)
overall, 45.179_PS11.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2019
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