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Portrait, George Washington, Peter Frederick Rothermel, Antique Mezzotint Print, c. 1850s


Peter Frederick Rothermel (1812-1895) (after)
Alexander Hay Ritchie (1822-1895) (engraver)
G. Washington
R.A. Bachia & Co., New York: c. 1850s
26.25 x 19.5 inches, image
29 x 21 inches, overall

Full-length mezzotint portrait of George Washington in a dignified pose, after a painting by Peter Frederick Rothermel. Washington, formally dressed, rests one hand on a dress sword, the point resting on the ground, which perhaps is emblematic of his role as military leader; the other hand rests on an upright book on a table. He stands in front of a great stone alcove, columns and an armchair with a United States shield at the top. Although this print is not dated, another known example of this portrait was published by R.A. Bachia and copyrighted in 1852, but giving a different address for the firm than on the offered example. The artist employed mezzotint, a sophisticated tonal engraving technique, for a lifelike rendering of Washington’s face and the various richly textured fabrics and stone architectural elements shown in the image. The print is titled with a facsimile of Washington’s signature in the lower margin.

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Peter Frederick Rothermel was a Philadelphia painter of portraits and history subjects. Born in rural Pennsylvania, he worked as a surveyor before moving to Philadelphia where he studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy. His career breakthrough came with the painting De Soto Discovering the Mississippi (1843), and led to numerous commissions for history paintings, such as Patrick Henry in the House of Burgesses in Virginia (1855). Rothermal served as a director of the Pennsylvania Academy from 1847 to 1856, then embarked on a three-year sojourn in Europe, two of them in Rome. Returning to Philadelphia, he continued to produce the historical works he was known for, notably The Battle of Gettysburg, a monumental 16 by 32 foot painting commissioned after the Civil War by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The painting toured the nation from 1870 to 1873 and was exhibited in Philadelphia during the 1876 Centennial Exhibition; since 1894 it has been displayed at the Pennsylvania State Museum at Harrisburg.

Alexander Hay Ritchie was an American engraver and portrait painter, best known for genre, portrait and figure subjects. Born in Scotland, he studied in Edinburgh under Sir William Allin. He immigrated to Canada in 1841, then settled in New York City around 1847. There, Ritchie opened a highly successful engraving firm and also achieved recognition for his paintings, becoming a member of the National Academy in 1871.

Full publication information: G. Washington. P.F. Rothermel, Pinx’t ; A.H. Ritchie, Sc. Published by R.A. Bachia & Co. 23 Chambers St. N.Y.

Condition: Generally very good, recently cleaned and deacidifed, with only minor remaining toning and wear.


Carson, Hampton Lawrence. The Hampton L. Carson Collection of Engraved Portraits of Gen. George Washinton, Issue 906, Parts 1-2. Philadelphia: W.F. Fell, 1903. 565. Online at Google Books: (16 October 2013).

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. 538 (Ritchie) and 548 (Rothermal).

Hart, Charles Henry. Catalogue of the Engraved Portraits of Washington. New York: Grolier Club, 1904. 668.

“Peter Frederick Rothermal Historical Marker.” Explore Pennsylvania History. 2011. (17 October 2013).