George Washington (Lansdowne portrait)
This portrait is one version of Gilbert Stuart's best-known full-length image of Washington. These are known as the "Lansdowne" portraits because this version was the gift of Mrs. William Bingham to William Petty, second Earl of Shelburne and first Marquis of Lansdowne, a British supporter of the American cause during the Revolutionary War. Washington agreed to sit for the portrait in the spring of 1796, writing the artist on April 11: "Sir: I am under promise to Mrs. Bingham, to set for you to-morrow at nine oclock, and wishing to know if it be convenient to you that I should do so, and whether it shall be at your own house, (as she talked of the State House), I send this note to you, to ask information." Washington's grandson George Washington Parke Custis later wrote: "It is notorious that it was only by hard begging that Mrs. Bingham obtained the sittings for the marquis of Lansdowne's picture."
The standing portrait depicts Washington as he appeared before Congress in Philadelphia. It includes furniture symbolic of the new America republic, as well as books titled American Revolution, and Constitution & Laws of the United States, and a silver inkstand engraved with the Washington family coat of arms. Another version of the portrait was described at the time of its exhibition in New York City in 1798 as showing Washington "surrounded with allegorical emblems of his public life in the service of his country, which are highly illustrative of the great and tremendous storms which have frequently prevailed. These storms have abated, and the appearance of the rainbow is introduced in the background as a sign." Another version, which hangs in the East Room of the White House, was rescued by Dolley Madison before that building was burned by the British during the War of 1812.