Published in February of 1802 to coincide with what would have been George Washington’s (1732-1799) seventy-first birthday, John James Barralet’s (1747-1815) engraving entitled Apotheosis of George Washington depicts the first President ascending to the heavens to take his place amongst the pantheon of gods. Surrounding him are a host of allegorical figures, including Liberty, Father Time, Immortality, Faith, Hope and Charity. Washington himself is depicted as the personification of Love of Country. The iconography and devices used by Barralet derive from the most widely circulated handbook on this subject at the time, Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia, which was first published in the last part of the sixteenth century. One of the approximately 600 published engravings was carried to China, where artists duplicated the design as a painting on glass, including the present example. Other Chinese export reproductions of the print include examples in the Winterthur Museum, the New Haven Historical Society and the Marblehead Historical Society. For a detailed discussion of the figures and sources of the engraving, see Phoebe Lloyd Jacobs, “John James Barralet and the Apotheosis of George Washington,” Winterthur Portfolio, vol. 12 (1977), 115-137.
According to an inscription on the back panel, the present lot was first owned by John Roulstone (1769-1839) of Boston, who was a riding master and first sergeant (later captain) of the Artillery Company of Massachusetts (Oliver Ayer Roberts, History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts vol. 2 (Boston, 1897), p. 365).