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Painted wooden plaque, simply decorated with the family coat of arms of George Washington, first president of the United States. The framed panel shows a red-and-white-striped shield with three red stars, above which is the black eagle portion of a griffin, or a raven, in profile perched on a crown. Below the shield is a red ribbon bearing the Latin motto, adopted by George Washington, “Exitus acta probat,” which means “the result validates the deeds,” more popularly known as “the ends justify the means.” The plaque is dated 1889, verso, possibly made in honor of the 100th anniversary of the year Washington was sworn in as president. The artist also painted the name of Washington’s wife, Martha, verso, presumably because she was a member of the Washington family. The backside of the panel has the paper label of a manufacturer of art materials, which presumably supplied the wood panel on which the work is painted.
Washington’s coat of arms has its roots in England, and was brought to Virginia by his great-grandfather in the 17th century. In heraldic terminology, the shield design is described as argent, two bars beneath three mullets gules, and can be found in stained glass and carvings on English buildings related to Washington’s ancestors dating back to the 14th century. Washington used the coat of arms on his bookplate in 1771, on a seal on many of his personal letters, and he had a large wooden carving of it on the wall at his home at Mount Vernon.
Printed label verso in form of artist’s palette: “From F.W. Weber & Co., Artists Materials, 1125 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia”
“George Washington: getting to know the man behind the image.” William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan. 2004. http://www.clements.umich.edu/Exhibits/g.washington/case.05/case05.html (June 2007).