GW: In the News

Slide 1 — The Landsdowne Portrait

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Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, D.C.

The famous Lansdowne portrait, named for the marquis of Lansdowne in England who received it, was painted in 1796 by American artist Gilbert Stuart. Stuart was already well known for his other portraits of GW, but this was his first attempt at a full-length view. Painted near the end of his second term as president, GW's letters reveal that he planned on sitting at least once for this portrait, which shows him addressing Congress.

When completed in the fall of 1796, the painting was well received by those in London anxious to have an image of the man so renowned for his leadership of the new country. Stuart then produced several other versions, with variations in the background and in the image of Washington himself.

The Lansdowne portrait has been in the news recently because Lord Harry Dalmeny, 33-year-old heir of the titled British family that owns it, wanted $20 million for the painting or its return. It has been on anonymous loan to the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution since 1968. It is currently featured in "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden" exhibit at the Museum of American History. On March 14th, a Las Vegas foundation donated $30 million to fund the purchase of the painting, a new display case and a tour of the Lansdowne portrait around the United States.

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