While Gilbert Stuart painted many of the nation’s most powerful and iconic personalities, none featured more prominently in his oeuvre than the first President. In fact, Stuart produced three notable portraits of Washington from three separate sittings. The original sitting resulted in the “Vaughan” type, the second called the “Athenaeum” type and lastly the “Lansdowne" type. Stuart painted the original “Athenaeum” portrait of George Washington from life in 1796. While that work is now jointly owned by the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, “Athenaeum” is used to describe the painting because it originally hung in the Boston Athenaeum.
From these originals Stuart produced a range of additional works. The present painting is based on the “Athenaeum” portrait and it is noted that, “Stuart made approximately seventy-five head-and-shoulder replicas of the Athenaeum portrait over the course of his long career. They all depict Washington in a black velvet suit and a white shirt with a ruffle of lace or linen.” (C.R. Barratt, E. Miles, Gilbert Stuart, New York, 2004, p. 154)