Lot 68
  • 68

Rembrandt Peale

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Rembrandt Peale
  • George Washington
  • signed Rembrandt Peale (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 36 1/8 by 29 1/4 inches
  • (91.8 by 74.3 cm)


Holland Galleries, New York
Zenas Crane, Dalton, Massachusetts, 1916 (acquired from the above)
Gift to the present owner from the above, 1917


Geneseo, New York, Bertha V.B. Lederer Fine Arts Gallery, State University College of Arts and Sciences, A Geneseo Harvest, September-October 1979, no. 10


John Hill Morgan and Mantle Fielding, The Life Portraits of Washington and Their Replicas, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1931, no. 26, p. 381


The following condition report has been provided by Jim Wright, Jim Wright Painting Conservation, Somerville, MA jjwri@tiac.net, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. The painting is in excellent condition overall. It is stable. It is unlined and on the original stretcher. The tacking edges are missing and there is a new strip lining. There is very minor retouching in the granite surround and a couple of minor touch ups in Washington's coat. There is some filling and retouching around the edge of the painting hidden by the rabbet.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Carol Hevner Soltis writes, “Rembrandt [Peale] had been experimenting with portraits of George Washington since the 1790s. Over the years he attempted variations on his life portrait of 1795 and on that by his father. In 1823, highly motivated to produce an important exhibition piece that would secure him artistic recognition and financial gain, he created what he would henceforth refer to as ‘The Standard National Likeness,’ his Patriae Pater. 'Never was a portrait painted under circumstances in which the whole soul of the Artist was more engaged than mine is in this of Washington,' he wrote in 1824.  “In seeking to create the definitive portrait of Washington, Rembrandt chose to frame the figure in an ornate stonework oval, a reflection of the oval format utilized in the museum portraits, which were themselves referential to the ancient clypeus format employed repeatedly in European and American prints to celebrate men of note and honor. 

“…The Washington copies, or ‘portholes’ were produced in systematic fashion during the 1840s and 1850s, at a time when Washington was a particularly keen subject of national interest. In his lecture on ‘Washington and his Portrait,’ which he delivered numerous times with considerable success in the 1850s, Rembrandt proclaimed that it was his vocation ‘to multiply the Countenance of Washington.’ The replications had at least two important functions for him. First, much like the museum replicas, they produced income, but on a much larger scale because of the volume of the orders. Second, these portraits were a continual reminder of the success of the Patriae Pater, its federal acquisition being a unique event in his career. To replicate this work was to reaffirm himself as an artist. He was finally able to copy his own masterwork.  It should be noted, however, that in line with his late style, these portraits deviated expressively from the Patriae Pater of 1824.

 “Although some ‘portholes’ show Washington in black senatorial dress, in most he is clothed in military uniform. The figure is tightly set in a simplified stonework oval. The images themselves partake of an almost baroque quality, due to the deep curvilinear collar, rhythmically treated gold braid, and great sweeping lapels. The uniform, in fact, complements the style of the head with its deeply set eyes, variegated surface of lines, wrinkles, hair and pouches of flesh. The image is solid and dense, and yet full of movement. The blue eyes, high color of the cheeks, highly saturated golds and blues of the uniform, and atmospheric golden light imitating the timeless realm of the hero all contribute to the visual impact. The lines designating the stones in the oval frame converge on the head, their cracks and irregularities creating a visual energy. The image is masculine and martial, highly finished and suggestive of what is real, but executed in an artificial style. The tight control of the surfaces and the fullness of the forms result in a contained energy. It is simultaneously baroque and Victorian. These works were reduced to a system based on the already well-distilled likeness of the Patriae Pater" (Lillian B. Miller, In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale 1778-1860, Washington, D.C., 1992, pp. 279-80).