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MARTHA WASHINGTON  [ the Athenaeum portrait ]

Oil on canvas, 1796
48 x 37 in. (121.9 x 94 cm)
Jointly owned by the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., (NPG.80.116), and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1980.2); William Francis Warden Fund, John H. and Ernestine A. Payne Fund, Commonwealth Cultural Preservation Trust


Stuart probably conceived these half-length compositions as seated portraits; the heads are slightly off-center allowing for the figures to be seen to the knees, seated in chairs. For Martha Washington (1731–1802), he completed only the face and lightly sketched in her white cap. The dark aureole of paint—standard practice in England—enabled Stuart to select colors for the face that would give a successful illusion of volume. It would have been painted over as part of the background when the portrait was completed. Stuart retained this portrait in his studio until his death but never replicated it.


GALLERY:  1. Stuart in Newport & Scotland  |  2. Stuart in London  |  3. Stuart in Dublin  |  4. Stuart in New York
  5. Stuart in Philadelphia  |  6. George Washington Gallery  |  7. Stuart in Washington, D.C.   |  8. Stuart in Boston

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