Exceptional in execution, provenance and condition, this portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart stands as one of the most significant survivals of the artist’s Vaughan type portraits. Named after John Vaughan, who owned the below portrait, the Vaughan type group depicts the sitter’s right side of the face and comprises fourteen known canvases painted by Stuart, all of which are replicas of the original, which according to the artist’s own notes, was “rubbed out.” Ten of these replicas are in public collections and only four, including this example, remain in private hands.1 The painting offered here is distinguished by its documented provenance from Alexander Scott (1764-1810), whose name appears on “A list of gentlemen who are to have copies of the Portrait of the President of the United States,” compiled by the artist in April 1795. Furthermore, the portrait survives in excellent condition.2 With such impressive attributes, the portrait has been widely acclaimed by scholars of early America’s preeminent portraitist and since 1879, has featured in all major scholarly publications on Stuart’s Washington portraits. Described as “a very fine example” by Dr. Ellen G. Miles in the accompanying catalogue, the portrait was most recently one of only three from the Vaughan type group selected for the 2004-2005 exhibition Gilbert Stuart at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art.3
The Vaughan Type Portraits:
George Washington’s First Sitting with Gilbert Stuart
Here is the real Washington, who is also the unknown Washington; a face of enormous natural strength and integrity, a natural boulder marked by its own fire rather than the pressure of the world…
- New Republic, 1923
In 1794, Stuart went to Philadelphia determined to paint the President from life and his Vaughan type portraits, based on a sitting in 1795, illustrate his initial endeavor. Miles’ study, the most recent scholarly examination of Stuart’s Washington portraits, records fourteen Vaughan type portraits known today, all of which were executed or at least begun in 1795. Though many later extolled the superiority of the Vaughan type portrayal, the artist was not completely satisfied and based on a sitting in early 1796, executed the original Athenaeum type likeness followed by the Lansdowne type, first rendered in April 1796.4 As Stuart embarked on a second version so soon after the first sitting, the Vaughan type portraits are exceedingly rare and their numbers pale in comparison to the approximately seventy five Athenaeum type portraits by Stuart that survive today. Based on facial rendering, clothing details and provenance, Dr. Miles’ study defines three distinct sub-groups of Vaughan type portraits with proposed chronological sequence and the portrait offered here is among the earliest executed by the artist. Sharing “notable similarities, including a long, thin, somewhat angular face and elaborate folds in the ruffle,” eight of the fourteen surviving Vaughan type portraits are in the earliest group, all of which apart from this portrait, are in public collections.5
At the time of the sitting for the Vaughan type portraits, George Washington was sixty-three years old and serving his sixth year as President of the United States of America. His second term began with numerous pressures from abroad and at home and 1795 was a year in which Washington demonstrated his ability to placate, at least temporarily, the fractions within his government and among the populace at large. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, England and France were embroiled in war with both sides threatening action against the new Republic. In 1794, Washington dispatched John Jay to negotiate a treaty to avert war and foster trade between England and America. After contentious debate between factions headed by Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, the Jay Treaty was ratified by Congress in July 1795. Though the portrait depicts Washington in his Presidential garb, it had not been long since he had actively served as military commander. He remains the only sitting President to have actively served in the field when he led troops on a month-long march from Carlisle to Bedford in September 1794 in preparation for the suppression of violent protests against the tax on whiskey. Washington’s leadership during the Whiskey Rebellion was a successful assertion of Federal authority and while grievances continued long after, his pardon of two of its leaders in July 1795 shows his concerted effort to foster good will with his opposition. On a more personal note, the Vaughan type portraits show Washington fitted with a set of wooden teeth made in 1790 by John Greenwood, a set that appears to have been more comfortable than the ivory set worn by Washington during the sitting in early 1796 for the Athenaeum type portrait. The resulting portraits illustrate the effect each set had on Washington’s face. In the Vaughan type examples, his face is more uniformly oval while the Athenaeum versions depict a noticeably square jaw, possibly enlarged from the swelling caused by his painful dentures.6
“____ Scott, Esq., Lancaster”
As noted by Mrs. Anna Russum (Rogers) Reilly (b. 1829), the portrait was first owned by Alexander Scott (1864-1810) of Lancaster and later purchased by Edward Brien (1769-1816), Mrs. Reilly’s grandfather.7 Described as “___ Scott, Esq., Lancaster,” Alexander Scott appears on a list compiled by the artist on April 20, 1795 entitled “A list of gentlemen who are to have copies of the Portrait of the President of the United States.”8 The list records orders for thirty-two men, both American and foreign, for thirty-nine works that appear to have cost $100 each. Not all the individuals on the list can be linked as first-owners of existing portraits today and it is possible that not all orders were fulfilled; furthermore, the portraits with histories that can be traced to individuals on the list comprise all three types of Stuart’s Washington portraits. Along with John Vaughan and General Henry Lee, Scott is one of three on the list that are known to have owned a Vaughan type portrait.9
A prominent member of Lancaster society, Alexander Scott may have had both political and personal ties to the first President. Hailing from Donegal in western Pennsylvania, Scott married Mary Slough (1769-1823) in 1787 in Lancaster and is recorded there in census records from 1790, 1793 and 1800.10 He was a realtor and operated his business in the bookstore of Joseph Clendennin on East King Street while variously residing on East Orange, South Queen and North Duke Streets. From 1797-1800, he served in the Pennsylvania legislature and may have met the President during his political career or during one of Washington’s visits to Lancaster. Scott’s father-in-law, Mathias Slough (1733-1812) was a colonel and member of the Pennsylvania assembly during the Revolution and in 1797, exchanged several letters with Washington regarding the latter’s purchase of horses for the transport of his possessions from Philadelphia to Mount Vernon. Slough held the President in great esteem and Scott’s ownership of this portrait indicates he held Washington in similar regard. In a letter to Washington dated March 4th, 1797, Slough remarked “The Inhabitants of this Brorugh Sincerely regret their not having the Honour of once more seeing you here” and the following year, Slough hosted a supper following a ball in Lancaster in celebration of the President’s 64th birthday.11 As surmised by Dr Thomas R. Ryan, President & CEO LancasterHistory.org, Scott’s portrait of Washington offered here may have been the direct inspiration for a copy by Lancaster artist Jacob Eichholtz who lived just one block from the Scott residence. At some point in 1809-1810, Eichholtz travelled to Boston where he studied in the artist’s studio for several weeks and probably executed his copy of Stuart’s work soon after his return.12 Although Eichholtz’s work features a curtain in the background, it otherwise closely follows the composition and clothing details seen in the work offered here. Furthermore, demonstrating a link between the artist and the Scott family, Eichholtz painted Scott’s widow in about 1814. Scott was a member of the St James Episcopal Church, where he was buried after his death on March 21, 1810. His funeral notice appeared in the Lancaster Journal, which declared that he “was so well known that his character can acquire no lustre from a newspaper panegyric.”13
Later History of the Portrait
To know that you and Peggy are finding such inspiration from it, gives me even more pleasure than had it remained in my possession.
-letter, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to David Rockefeller, 29 November 1954. Rockefeller Family Records.
As detailed by Mrs. Reilly, the portrait was purchased from the estate of Alexander Scott by Edward Brien, proprietor of Martic Forge, whose family had close ties to the Scott family.14 He did not own the portrait for long as he died in 1816 and the first item listed on his estate inventory reads “One portrait of Washington” valued at $15.15 The portrait then passed to his widow, Dorothy (Hand) Brien (1777-1862) and the reverse of the painting bears the inscription “D. Brien,” confirming Dorothy’s ownership.16 Mrs. Reilly was raised by her grandmother and provided a first-hand account of its subsequent history in the nineteenth century. After her grandmother’s death in 1862, the portrait was inherited by Dorothy’s daughter, Sarah Bethel (Brien) Rogers (1810-1886), and then purchased by Sarah’s son-in-law, Edward Reilly (1834-1889), who gave it to his wife, Mrs. Reilly, prior to the Reillys’ removal from Lancaster to New Haven in 1873. The portrait accompanied the family from Lancaster to New Haven and again when they moved to New York City in 1881 and later to Trenton, New Jersey. While no supporting documentation has been found, Mrs. Reilly recalled that it was exhibited at several local venues during these years. Mrs. Reilly noted that she gave the painting to her daughter, Edith (Mrs. John Stockton Hough), before it was sold in 1907 to Charles Allen Munn (1859-1924), editor of the Scientific American and noted collector of American silver, prints and paintings.17 With a strength in works depicting George Washington, much of Munn’s collection was bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1924. The portrait offered here, however, was inherited by his niece, Augusta (Munn) Tilney (1884-1959) and through M. Knoedler & Co. was sold to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1946. In 1954, he gifted it to his son, David Rockefeller, to whom he wrote “to know that you and Peggy are finding such inspiration from it, gives me even more pleasure than had it remained in my possession.” The portrait was displayed in the morning room and more recently in the dining room of the couple’s New York City townhouse.18
1 E.G. Miles, “The Portraits of Washington,” and catalogue entry, Gilbert Stuart, New York, 2004, pp. 135 (fn. 18), 136, 141 (fn. 2). Ten of the Vaughan type portraits are in the following public collections: the National Gallery of Art (2), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2), Winterthur Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, Frick Collection, Harvard University, University of Virginia and Indiana University Library. The remaining three examples are in private hands and include a portrait that sold, Christie’s, New York, 23 May 2017, lot 6.
2 Condition Report, Simon Parkes Conservation, Inc., 5 October 2017. For a copy of this report, please contact the American Furniture and Decorative Arts department.
3 Miles, pp. 141-144, cat. 36.
4 In a review of G. Mason, The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart, New York, 1879, Charles Henry Hart in reference to the portrait offered here, wrote “Had it been known earlier, we feel confident in asserting that the Atheneum [sic] head would not have become the accepted likeness of Washington.” Cited in E. Bradshaw, catalogue entry, The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection, vol. II: Art of the Western Hemisphere, New York, 1988, p. 19.
5 Miles, p. 141. The other seven portraits that fall into the earliest sup-group of Vaughan type portraits are those in the collections of the National Gallery of Art (2), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Phillips-Brixley example), Colonial Williamsburg, Winterthur Museum, the Frick Collection and Harvard University.
6 Miles, pp. 147, 152.
7 Anna R. Reilly to Charles Allen Munn, Esq., 30 March 1907, transcribed in C.A. Munn, Three Types of Washington Portraits, New York, 1908, pp. 55-57. In the 1907 letter, Mrs. Reilly refers to the first owner as “Mr. Scott,” but in a 1916 statement recording this history notes that Mr. Scott’s wife’s name was Mary Slough, thus identifying the first owner as Alexander Scott. See Anna R. Reilly, “Pedigree of the Portrait of George Washington, but Gilbert Stuart, formerly the property of Mr. Scott of Lancaster and now owned by Charles A. Munn of New York, 20 June 1916,” in C. Munn, correspondence from 1909-1917, Rare Book and Special Collections section, Fordham University library, Bronx, New York.
8 Miles, p. 133.
9 Miles, p. 133.
10 Federal Census records and Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Septennial Census, 1779-1863 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
11 “To George Washington from Matthias Slough, 4 March 1797,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified November 26, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/06-01-02-0002. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series, vol. 1, 4 March 1797?–?30 December 1797, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998, pp. 1–6.]; “George Washington’s 64th Birthday Party,” Lancaster Journal, 24 February 1798 as cited in “Notes and Queries,” Lancaster Journal, vol. II, no. 4 (October 1894).
12 Dr. Thomas R. Ryan, catalogue entry, Hess Auction Group, 3 December 2016, lot 157.
13 Cited in C.I. Landis, “Some Old-Time Lancaster Portraits of Washington,” Journal of the Lancaster Historical Society, vol. 21, no. 2 (February 2, 1917), p. 31. Much of the biographical information on Alexander Scott is taken from Landis, pp. 29-34 and Eleanor Fulton and Doroty Shopf, comp., “Genealogical records of a group of Lancasterians who were primarily members of the First Presbyterian of Lancaster PA.” (1972), n.p . According to the latter, Alexander Scott was the son of Josiah Scott (1698-1765) and Mary Allen, but this has not been verified. Christie’s would like to thank Kevin Shue, Genealogist, and Dr Thomas R. Ryan, President & CEO LancasterHistory.org, for their assistance in the research of Alexander Scott.
14 See Mrs. Reilly’s letters and statement cited in fn. 7 above. She notes that Mrs. Scott was the godmother of her great aunt, Molly Hand, probably Mary Hand (1786-1880), who also lived in the Brien household.
15 “Inventory and appraisment [sic] of the Goods & Chattels of Edward Brien, Esq.,” 1 August 1816, p. 1.
16 Bradshaw, p. 20. Dorothy was the daughter of General Edward Hand (1744-1805), who also owned a portrait of Washington. In 1909, Charles Henry Hart ascribed the Scott provenance to another painting in “A New Stuart Portrait of Washington,” Collier’s Weekly, vol. XLII, 20 February 1909, p. 19 and in 1916-1917 he exchanged letters with Charles Allen Munn, then the owner of the portrait offered here, regarding which portrait was first owned by Alexander Scott (C. Munn, correspondence from 1909-1917, Rare Book and Special Collections section, Fordham University library, Bronx, New York). Charles Henry Hart retracted his claims in "Tracing the Pedigrees of Two of Stuart's Washingtons," New York Sun, January 21, 1917, p. 4.
17 See Anna R. Reilly’s 1907 letter and 1916 statement in fn. 7 above. In 1907, Mrs. Reilly stated that the portrait had been “exhibited at the Union League Club, the Art School in New Haven and in the gallery of A.T. Stewart” (Munn 1907, p. 56).
18 Letter, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to David Rockefeller, 29 November 1954. Rockefeller Family Records; “Living with the Great: Treasures in the New York house of Mr. and Mrs. David Rockefeller,” Vogue, vol. CXXVII, 1 February 1956, p. 174.