The offered portrait, Patriae Pater, is based on a painting Peale produced in the 1820’s, long after Washington had died in 1799. Washington had become the subject of intense hero worship by the American public. Widely celebrated in its time, the painting has hung in the Old Senate Chamber in Washington, DC, since 1832, when it was purchased for display in honor of the centenary of Washington’s birth. The portrait symbolically presents Washington as a noble, almost godlike figure, with a mask of Jupiter carved into the keystone. A garland of oak leaves frames the oval window, symbolic of virtue and endurance as well as being associated with Jupiter. The entire canvas is about six feet high. The likeness was based on a combination of sources, including a portrait Peale painted many years before at age 17 when Washington sat for him as a favor to his father, the portrait painter Charles Willson Peale.
This lithograph version of Patriae Pater was the first of many print collaborations between Peale and William and John Pendleton, brothers who began a lithography firm together in 1826. Both Peale and John Pendleton had recently been introduced to the brand new printing process abroad. Peale made the drawing onto the litho stone after a painting he had made in 1823 and copyrighted in 1827. Other versions of this print in museum collections online have the elaborately printed title and inscription “Washington. From the Original Portrait Painted by Rembrandt Peale,” in the lower margin, beneath the Pendleton credits. The fancy decoration around the title of these examples extends close to the bottom of the image. The version offered here has the Pendleton credits, but not the title, and without evidence of it having been cropped; accordingly it may be a proof before title, extant examples of which are known to exist. A later mezzotint after Peale’s painting was engraved by Adam B. Walter, published first by C.N. Robinson in Philadelphia, and subsequently reissued by other publishers.
Rembrandt Peale was a major 19th-century American artist. He was born into a large and renowned family of American artists active in Philadelphia and Baltimore, whose father was the prominent painter, curator and entrepreneur Charles Willson Peale. Like his father, Rembrandt Peale is best known for his portrait paintings, and founded a museum that was a combination of natural history exhibits and a portrait gallery; Charles’s was in Philadelphia, Rembrandt’s in Baltimore. Father and son were co-founders of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Peale lived and worked in several U.S. cities during the first three decades of the 19th century and traveled to Europe five times. He studied at the Royal Academy in London, during 1802-03, and absorbed the influence of neoclassicism on trips to Paris a few years later. While living in Baltimore, he founded Peale’s Baltimore Museum and Gallery of Paintings in 1814, the first purpose-built museum in the Western Hemisphere. Peale was also a founder of the National Academy in 1826. After 1831, he settled permanently in Philadelphia, and in the latter part of his career supported himself by making copies of Patriae Pater (1823) a famous portrait he did of George Washington both as a painting and a lithograph. The original Patriae Pater has hung in the Old Senate Chamber since 1832, when it was purchased in honor of the centenary of Washington’s birth. Peale is also remembered for a fine portrait of Thomas Jefferson (1805), now in the collection of the New-York Historical Society. The Court of Death (1820), an ambitious 24-foot long history painting in the neoclassical style, was widely exhibited during his lifetime — Peale took it on a highly successful tour — and it hangs today in the Detroit Institute of Fine Arts.
William S. Pendleton (1795-1879) and his brother John B. Pendleton (1798-1866) were lithographers and engravers. They were employed by members of the Peale family to install gas lighting in their Philadelphia and Baltimore museums in 1816, and in 1820 to exhibit Peale’s The Court of Death in various cities and towns. By 1825, William was working as an engraver in Boston, and in 1826, joined with John to produce lithographs. John left Boston in 1829, and spent the next five years working as a lithographer in New York, while William continued in business in Boston until 1836. The Pendletons played a key role in bringing lithography to America, introducing the process to a large number of artists. In 1834, John sold his business to a former pupil, Nathaniel Currier, who went on to co-found the dominant lithography firm of the 19th century, Currier & Ives.
Full publication information, lower margin: Drawn on Stone by Rembrandt Peale. Copyright secured 1827. Pendleton’s Lithography. Boston.
Condition: Generally good, recently professionally cleaned, deacidified, and laid on Japanese paper to restore some short tears and cracks and with some remaining overall toning and wear. Appears to be a proof edition before title, rather than an example with the title cropped off at the bottom, though the latter is nonetheless considered to be a possibility.
DA. “Rembrandt Peale.” Worcester Art Museum. http://www.worcesterart.org/collection/American/1910.48.3546.html (21 March 2016).
“George Washington (Patriae Pater).” United States Senate. http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/artifact/Painting_31_00001.htm (22 March 2016).
Groce, George C. and Wallace, David H. The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969. pp. 493-494 (Peale), 497-498 (Pendleton).
Henkels, Stanislaus Vincent. The Hampton L. Carson Collection of Engraved Portraits of Gen. George Washington. Issue 906, Parts 1-2. Philadelphia: W.F. Fell, 1903. 859. Online at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=y7ZYAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA123 (22 March 2016).
Made in America: Printmaking, 1760-1860: An Exhibition of Original Prints from the Collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, April-June, 1973. Philadelphia: The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1973. 36. Online at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=MYpvgwRf90sC&pg=PA27 (21 March 2016).
“Old Senate Chamber.”Architect of the Capitol. 15 December 2015. https://www.aoc.gov/capitol-buildings/old-senate-chamber (21 March 2016).
Zellman, Michael David, dir. American Art Analog. Vol.[fill in]. Chelsea House: New York, 1986. Vol. 1, p. 84.