GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)
GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)
GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)
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GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)
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GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)


GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)
oil on canvas
29 x 23 ¾ in.
Painted in 1795
The Philips family, Manchester area, England:
Possibly Nathaniel Philips (1726-1808), Manchester and The Dales, Lancashire or his son Samuel Philips (1762-1824), Manchester and Heybridge Estate, Checkley, Staffordshire
Robert Philips (1794-1853), Heybridge Estate, nephew of Samuel
John William Philips (1827-1914), Heybridge Estate, son
[William] Morton Philips (1852-1940), Heybridge Estate, son, until 1923
Frank T. Sabin, London, by December 21, 1923, by purchase from above
Joseph Duveen, Duveen Brothers, New York, by purchase from above, February 4, 1924
Richard De Wolfe Brixey (1880-1943), New York City and Bedford, New York, by purchase from above, March 18, 1924
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, bequest of Richard De Wolfe Brixey, 1943
“A Stuart ‘Washington,’ Found in England, Bought by New Yorker,” Art News, vol. XXIII (February 21, 1925), p. 6.
Lawrence Park, Gilbert Stuart: An Illustrated Descriptive List of His Works (New York, 1926), vol. II, p. 852, no. 15, vol. IV, p. 599.
John Hill Morgan and Mantle Fielding, The Life Portraits of Washington and Their Replicas (Philadelphia, 1931), p. 258, no. 15.
Gustavus A. Eisen, Portraits of Washington, vol. I (New York, 1932), pp. 40, 43.
Wood and Fielding, “Bust Portrait of George Washington, The Vaughan Type” (Philadelphia, 1932) [“No. 1 color reproduction of the best five Washington Portraits, Philadelphia, 1932. Folio with history on the reverse of the Plates,” as cited in Eisen, p. 43].
Charles Merrill Mount, Gilbert Stuart: A Biography (New York, 1964), p. 378.
Albert Ten Eyck Gardner and Stuart P. Feld, American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. I: A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born by 1815 (New York, 1965), p. 87.
John Caldwell and Oswaldo Rodriguez Roque with Dale T. Johnson, American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,vol. I: A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born by 1815, Kathleen Luhrs, ed. (New York, 1994), pp. 177-178.
Carrie Rebora Barratt and Ellen G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart (New York, 2004), pp. 141-142, fig. 90.
The Frick Art Reference Library, no. 121-20, k4.
Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington Bicentennial Exhibition, 1932, no. 7.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fourteen American Masters, 1958-59.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Three Centuries of American Art, 1965.
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, American Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1966, no. 17; also San Francisco, M. H. De Young Museum, 1966.

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Lot Essay

In this portrait Stuart reached the climax of his art, and his portraiture its noblest expression.
--Gustavus A. Eisen, Portraits of Washington, vol. I (New York, 1932), p. 43.

Magnificently rendered with the artist’s hallmark impressionistic brushstrokes, this portrait of George Washington is among the earliest painted by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) after the President’s first sitting in the fall of 1795. This sitting was the basis for the portraits known today as the “Vaughan” type, so-named after John Vaughan (1756-1841), who commissioned what had long been thought to be the original work (fig. 1). Only fourteen examples of this type are known today and in addition to that offered here, comprise those in the collections of the National Gallery of Art (two examples), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, Winterthur Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, the University of Virginia, Harvard University, Indianapolis University Library, and four in private ownership. According to Ellen G. Miles, Curator Emerita of the National Portrait Gallery, all of these works were painted or at least begun in 1795 before the second sitting in early 1796 that yielded the “Athenaeum” type portraits, which survive in far greater numbers.1

Art historian and multi-faceted scientist Gustavus A. Eisen applied his methodical approach to the study of Stuart’s Vaughan-type likenesses of Washington and presented a chronological sequence based on a speculative evolution of details, such as the hair ribbons and shirt ruffles (jabots). According to Eisen, the order of the first four works as identified by their early owners’ names, was as follows: The Vaughan portrait (National Gallery of Art), the Vaughan-Sinclair portrait (National Gallery of Art), the Philips-Brixey portrait (that offered here) and the Camperdown portrait (Frick Collection). Eisen asserted that the Philips-Brixey was copied directly from the Vaughan example as both feature virtually identical ribbons. Delineated with sketchy, angular strokes that differ from the rounded folds seen in all other replicas, these details are superb illustrations of the artist’s virtuosity (fig. 2).2

While Miles questioned Eisen’s exact sequence, she also placed the Philips-Brixey portrait as among the earliest replicas painted by Stuart. Miles noted that the example rendered during the first sitting was “rubbed out,” and thus the Vaughan portrait (fig. 1) represents a replica rather than the original from life. Furthermore, she asserted that Stuart probably worked on multiple canvases at the same time, so the details examined by Eisen may not illustrate a strict chronological development of the artist’s work. Miles proposed that besides the Vaughan example, the thirteen remaining Vaughan-type portraits could be considered in three separate groups identified by similarities in execution and composition. The portrait offered here, the Philips-Brixey example, falls into the early group of seven as defined by Miles. This group is characterized by “a long, thin, somewhat angular face and elaborate folds in the shirt ruffle” and with one exception features narrow hair ribbons.3 Of these seven, all are in public collections except the Philips-Brixey and the Scott, which sold at Christie’s in 2018 from the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller.4


Phillips’ [sic] ancestors were strong Whigs and four of them headed petition to Pitt in support [of]
American Independence. They looked on Washington as hero.
--Cable, Duveen Brothers, London to New York, January 16, 1924.

The early date of the Philips-Brixey portrait as noted by both Eisen and Miles is further supported by Rembrandt Peale’s assertion that Stuart sent the first replicas to England.5 This portrait was owned by W. Morton Philips (1852-1940) in 1923 when it was in his country home, Heybridge Estate (fig. 5), in Checkley, near Tean, Staffordshire and the line of descent, presumably supplied by Morton at this time, identified as his ancestors who had occupied Heybridge since the early nineteenth century. The first owner may have been Morton’s great-great-uncle, Samuel Philips (1762-1824), who purchased Heybridge in 1813, or Samuel’s father (Morton’s great-great grandfather), Nathaniel Philips (1726-1808) (fig. 3).6

Founded by Nathaniel Philips and his brother John (1724-1813), the Manchester firm of J. and N. Philips was one of the largest textile manufacturers in eighteenth-century England and provided its proprietors and their families immense wealth for multiple generations. The company was actively involved in the transatlantic trade and a likely source for the purchase of this portrait is the English-born merchant, William Cramond (Crammond) (1754-1843), who moved to Philadelphia and from 1789 to 1801 formed a partnership with the Philips brothers known as Philips, Cramond and Co.7 In April 1795, Gilbert Stuart drew up a list of “gentleman who are to have copies of the Portrait of the President of the United States” and included are “Mr. Crammond 2” and “Crammond, Esq. 1.”8 These are likely references to William and his brother James (d. 1799), also in Philadelphia at this time, and indicates that the brothers may have ordered or acquired three portraits between them. A prominent member of Philadelphia society, William Cramond had numerous business dealings with other patrons of Stuart and like many on Stuart’s list Cramond served as a director of the Insurance Company of North America.9 Stuart also painted Cramond’s father-in-law, John Nixon (1755-1828), in about 1800, further indicating links between the artist and possible purchaser of this portrait.10 Cramond had wed Sarah Nixon (1774-1865) in 1793 and in the same year bought the renowned Second Street house of John Cadwalader (1742-1786). Six years later, Cramond commissioned Benjamin Henry Latrobe to design a Gothic Revival country house on the banks of the Schuylkill. Cramond called this mansion, Sedgley, the same name as the estate built in the 1780s by John and Nathaniel Philips’ brother, Thomas (1728-1811), on the outskirts of Birmingham, suggesting that Cramond had social ties to the Philips family that went beyond business dealings.11

The portrait may also have been acquired from or through one of Nathaniel’s extended family members who was in Philadelphia during the 1790s, two of whom are known to have had contact with Washington. In 1796, Henry Philips (1767-1800), son of Nathaniel’s first cousin John Philips (1734-1824), married Sophia Chew (1769-1841) (fig. 4), the daughter of Washington’s close friend Chief Justice Benjamin Chew (1722-1810). Washington is said to have treated the Chew daughters as if they were his own; Sophia and her sister Harriet were particularly favored by the First Family. Both were present at Martha Washington’s first levee in Philadelphia and Harriet was even noted to have entertained the President with her conversation while he sat for Stuart’s “Lansdowne” portrait.12 Around this time, Henry introduced his brother Francis (1771-1850) to the President and two years later, as a token of his admiration, Francis sent two prints of Joseph Wright’s work, The Dead Soldier, to Washington at Mount Vernon. This gift is documented by letters between Henry Philips and George Washington and a 1799 inventory of Mount Vernon indicates they hung in the New Room. Today, copies of these engravings are displayed in this room.13 Other members of Nathaniel’s family in Philadelphia at the time include Henry and Francis’ younger brother James (1777-1800/1808) and their first cousin Nathaniel Philips (1765-after 1834) (fig. 3). Many of these men from different branches of the family were closely connected through numerous business partnerships, so it is very possible that the portrait passed from one branch to the other.

Whether the portrait first graced one of the residences of William Cramond, Nathaniel Philips, his son Samuel, or another Philips family member, it appears to have descended to subsequent owners of Samuel’s estate, Heybridge (fig. 5). Samuel died childless and the estate passed to his nephew Robert (1794-1853), thence to Robert’s son [John] William (1827-1914) and finally to John William’s son [William] Morton, the last family owner of the portrait. Records of the Duveen company include numerous cables sent between the London and New York offices from December 21, 1923 to March 5, 1924 regarding this portrait. Among these, the relevance of Washington to the Philips family was noted: “Phillips’ [sic] ancestors were strong Whigs and four of them headed petition to Pitt in support of American Independence. They looked on Washington as hero.” The cables also indicate that the portrait was purchased directly from Morton Philips by the firm of Frank T. Sabin, London dealers, and at the time the work was unlined. Over the next few weeks, the cables record that the Duveen firm negotiated Sabin down from £5,000 to £3,300, Sabin had damage to the lower right background repaired, as seen in the current condition report, and after taking possession by February 4, 1924, the Duveen firm in London had the canvas lined before it was sent to New York. Soon after its arrival, Duveen sold the painting to Richard De Wolfe Brixey (1880-1943), a successful businessman and art collector in New York, for $18,000.14 Upon his death in 1943, Brixey bequeathed the work to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

1 Ellen G. Miles, catalogue entry, in Carrie Rebora Barratt and Ellen G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart (New York, 2004), p. 141.
2 Gustavus A. Eisen, Portraits of Washington, vol. I (New York, 1932), pp. 34-37, 40, 43.
3 Miles, pp. 136, 141-142. As to Stuart’s first Vaughan-type portrait, Miles noted that the Gibbs-Channing-Avery portrait, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has earlier reiterations revealed by X-rays that may indicate that this canvas contained the original work and was later painted over by the artist (Miles, p. 144).
4 Christie’s, New York, The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller: Art of the Americas, Evening Sale, May 9, 2018, lot 440.
5 Eisen, p. 45.
6 Lawrence Park, Gilbert Stuart: An Illustrated Descriptive List of His Works (New York, 1926), vol. II, p. 852, no. 15.
7 See case no. 11,092, Philips et al. vs. Crammond et al., Pennsylvania, 1810, available at
8 Gilbert Stuart’s list is transcribed in Miles, p. 133.
9 A History of the Insurance Company of North America of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1885), p. 12.
10 The portrait of John Nixon was a bequeathed by William Cramond’s son, Henry Cramond, to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1887. See Park, vol. II, p. 554, no. 584.
11 Jack L. Lindsey, “The Cadwalader Family during the Early Nineteenth Century,” in Jack L. Lindsey and Darrel Sewall, The Cadwalader Family: Art and Style in Early Philadelphia, Bulletin of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, vol. 91, nos. 384-5 (Philadelphia, 1996), p. 35; William Birch after William Strickland, Sedgley, the Seat of Mr. William Crammond, Pennsylvania, 1809, Philadelphia Museum of Art, acc. no. 2012-172-99; “Sedgley Mansion Porter’s House” on website of The Constitutional Walking Tour, available at, accessed December 4, 2023.
12 Rufus Wilmot Griswold, The Republican Court, Or American Society During the Days of Washington (New York, 1855), p. 355; Francis Sims McGrath, Pillars of Maryland (Richmond, Virginia, 1950), p. 150.
13 Jessie MacLeod, Assistant Curator, Mount Vernon, “Dead Soldier in the New Room,” See Mount Vernon online collection, M-93/EE-1, available at;jsessionid=49BB1EA8E85D077F80A8B177FC1696B8, accessed September 19, 2023. Exhibited by Wright at the Royal Academy in 1789, the original painting was owned by Henry and Francis’ elder brother, John Leigh Philips (1761-1814), a noted art collector who was a close friend of both Wright and the engraver or the work, James Heath (1757-1834). Further illustrating the interrelationships among artist, engraver and patron, Heath sat for Stuart in 1784 and dedicated his engraving of The Dead Soldier to the Marquis of Lansdowne. The latter first owned Stuart’s full-length portrait of Washington painted from life in 1796, which was engraved by Heath in 1797.
For more on Francis Philips, see “Francis Philips, Esq.,” The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. XXXIV (July-December 1850), pp. 217-218; “The Big Houses of the Heatons: Bank Hall—Part Two: Francis Philips,” available online at, accessed September 19, 2023.
14 Cable, Duveen Brothers, London to New York, January 16, 1924; Duveen Brothers, Files regarding works of art: Stuart, Gilbert, Portraits, 1916-1960, Folder 5; Duveen Brothers, invoice 802, March 18, 1924, House Invoices 1923-1925. All part of Getty Research Institute's Duveen Brothers Resources, available at and, accessed September 19, 2023.

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