« PrejšnjaNaprej »
PORTRAITS OF WASHINGTON.
[The following notices of the various representations of Washington, which have been prepared by the publisher for this work, are kindly furnished by Mr. H. T. TUCKERMAN, from a volume which he has now in press.]
THE earliest portraits of Washington are more interesting, perhaps, as memorials than as works of art; and we can easily imagine that associations endeared them to his old comrades. The dress (blue coat, scarlet facings, and underclothes) of the first portrait, by Peale, and the youthful face, make it suggestive of the first experience of the future commander, when, exchanging the surveyor's implements for the colonel's commission, he bivouacked in the wilderness of Ohio, the leader of a motley band of hunters, provincials and savages, to confront wily Frenchmen, cut forest roads, and encounter all the perils of Indian ambush, inclement skies, undisciplined followers, famine and woodland skirmish. It recalls his calm authority and providential escape amid the dismay of Braddock's defeat, and his pleasant sensation at the first whistling of bullets in the weary march to Fort Necessity. To CHARLES WILSON PEALE, we owe this precious relic of the chieftain's youth. His own career partook of the vicissitudes and was impressed with the spirit of the revolutionary era; a captain of volunteers at the battles of Trenton and Germantown, and a State representative of Pennsylvania, a favorite pupil of West, an ingenious mechanician and a warrior, he always cherished the instinct and the faculty for art; and even amid the bustle and duties of the camp, never failed to seize auspicious intervals of leisure, to depict his brother officers. This portrait was executed in 1772, and is now at Arlington House.
The resolution of Congress by which a portrait by this artist
was ordered, was passed before the occupation of Philadelphia. Its progress marks the vicissitudes of the revolutionary struggle; commenced in the gloomy winter and half-famished encampment at Valley Forge, in 1778, the battles of Trenton, Princeton, and Monmouth intervened before its completion. At the last place Washington suggested that the view from the window of the farm-house opposite to which he was sitting, would form a desirable background. Peale adopted the idea, and represented Monmouth Court House and a party of Hessians under guard, marching out of it.* The picture was finished at Princeton, and Nassau Hall is a prominent object in the background; but Congress adjourned without making an appropriation, and it remained in the artist's hands. Lafayette desired a copy for the King of France; and Peale executed one in 1779, which was sent to Paris; but the misfortunes of the royal family occasioned its sale, and it became the property of the Count de Menou, who brought it again to this country and presented it to the National Institute, where it is now preserved. Chapman made two copies at a thousand dollars each; and Dr. Craik, one of the earliest and warmest personal friends of Washington, their commissions as officers in the French war having been signed on the same day, (1754,) declared it a most faithful likeness of him as he appeared in the prime of his life.t
* MS. Letter of Titian R. Peale to George Livermore, Esq.
† PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 4.-His Excellency General Washington set off from this city to join the army in New Jersey. During the course of his short stay, the only relief he has enjoyed from service since he first entered it, he has been honored with every mark of esteem, &c. The Council of this State being desirous of having his picture in full length, requested his sitting for that purpose, which he politely complied with, and a striking likeness was taken by Mr. Peale, of this city. The portrait is to be placed in the council chamber. Don Juan Marrailes, the Minister of France, has ordered five copies, four of which, we hear, are to be sent abroad.-Penn. Packet, Feb. 11, 1779. Peale's first portrait was executed for Col. Alexander; his last is now in the Bryan Gallery, New York. He painted one in 1776 for John Hancock, and besides that for New Jersey, others for Pennsylvania and Maryland.
There is a tradition in the Peale family, honorably represented through several generations, by public spirit and artistic gifts, that intelligence of one of the most important triumphs of the American arms was received by Washington in a despatch he opened while sitting to Wilson Peale for a miniature intended for his wife, who was also present. The scene occurred one fine summer afternoon; and there is something attractive to the fancy in the association of this group quietly occupied in one of the most beautiful of the arts of peace, and in a commemorative act destined to gratify conjugal love and a nation's pride, with the progress of a war and the announcement of a victory fraught with that nation's liberty and that leader's eternal renown.
CHARLES WILSON PEALE.
The characteristic traits of Peale's portraits of Washington now at the National Institute and Arlington House, and the era of our history and of Washington's life they embalm, make them doubly valuable in a series of pictorial illustrations, each of which, independent of the degree of professional skill exhibited, is essential to our Washingtonian gallery. Before Trumbull and Stuart had caught from the living man his aspect in maturity and age the form knit to athletic proportions by selfdenial and activity, and clad in the garb of rank and war, and the countenance open with truth and grave with thought, yet rounded with the contour and ruddy with the glow of early manhood—was thus genially delineated by the hand of a comrade, and in the infancy of native art. Of the fourteen portraits by Peale, that exhibiting Washington as a Virginia colonel in the colonial force of Great Britain, is the only entire portrait before the revolution extant.* One was painted for the college of New Jersey, at Princeton, in 1780, to occupy a frame in which a portrait of George the Third had been destroyed by a cannon ball during the battle at that place on the 3d of January, 1777. It still remains in the possession of the College, and was saved
* A miniature, said to have been painted in 1757, at the age of 25, has been engraved for Irving's Washington.
fortunately from the fire which a few years ago consumed Nassau Hall. Peale's last portrait of Washington, executed in 1783, he retained until his death, and two years since, it was sold with the rest of the collection known as the "Peale Gallery," at Philadelphia. There is a pencil sketch also by this artist, framed with the wood of the tree in front of the famous Chew's house, around which centered the battle of Germantown.*
A few octogenarians in the city of brotherly love, used to speak, not many years since, of a diminutive family, the head of which manifested the sensitive temperament, if not the highest capabilities of artistic genius. This was ROBERT EDGE PINE. He brought to America the earliest cast of the Venus de Medici, which was privately exhibited to the select few-the manners and morals of the Quaker city forbidding its exposure to the common eye. He was considered a superior colorist, and was favorably introduced into society in Philadelphia by his acknowledged sympathy for the American cause, and by a grand project such as was afterwards partially realized by Trumbull; that of a series of historical paintings, illustrative of the American Revolution, to embrace original portraits of the leaders, both civil and military, in that achievement, including the statesmen who were chiefly instrumental in framing the Constitution and organizing the Government. He brought a letter of introduction to the father of the late Judge Hopkinson, whose portrait he executed, and its vivid tints and correct resemblance, still attest to his descendants the ability of the painter. He left behind him in London, creditable portraits of George the Second, Garrick, and the Duke of Northumberland. In the intervals of his business as a teacher of drawing and a votary of portraiture in general, he collected, from time to time, a large number of “distinguished heads," although, as in the case of
* "The Editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer was lately shown a pencil sketch of General Washington, taken from life by Charles Wilson Peale, in the year 1777. It was framed from a part of the elm-tree then standing in front of Chew's house, on the Germantown battle-ground, and the frame was made by a son of Dr. Craley, of Revolutionary fame."
Ceracchi, the epoch and country were unfavorable to his ambitious project; of these portraits the heads of General Gates, Charles Carroll, Baron Steuben, and Washington, are the best known and most highly prized. Pine remained three weeks at Mount Vernon, and his portrait bequeathes some features with great accuracy; artists find in it certain merits not discoverable in those of a later date; it has the permanent interest of a representation from life, by a painter of established reputation; yet its tone is cold and its effect unimpressive, beside the more bold and glowing pencil of Stuart. It has repose and dignity. In his letter to Washington, asking his coöperation in the design he meditated, Pine says, "I have been some time at Annapolis painting the portraits of patriots, legislators, heroes and beauties, in order to adorn my large picture;" and he seems to have commenced his enterprise with sanguine hopes of one day accomplishing his object, which, however, it was reserved for a native artist eventually to complete. That his appeal to Washigton was not neglected, however, is evident from an encouraging allusion to Pine and his scheme, in the correspondence of the former. "Mr. Pine," he says, "has met a favorable reception in this country, and may, I conceive, command as much business as he pleases. He is now preparing materials for historical representations of the most important events of the war."* Pine's picture is in the possession of the Hopkinson family at Philadelphia. The fac-simile of Washington's letter proves that it was taken in 1785. A large copy was purchased at Montreal, in 1817, by the late Henry Brevoort, of New York, and is now in the possession of his son, J. Carson Brevoort, at Bedford, L. I. †
The profile likeness of Washington by SHARPLESS, is a valuable item of the legacy which Art has bequeathed of those noble and benign features; he evidently bestowed upon it his greatest skill, and there is no more correct facial outline of the immortal subject in existence; a disciple of Lavater would
ROBERT EDGE PINE.
* Sparks's Writings of Washington.
This portrait is now in the engraver's hands for the illustrated edition of this work.