George Washington before the Battle of Trenton
In this small painting, John Trumbull duplicated the life-size portrait voted by the Charleston City Council in May 1791, during Washington's visit to South Carolina. The council intended that the large painting should "hand down to posterity the remembrance of the man to whom they are so much indebted for the blessings of peace, liberty and independence." Trumbull painted Charleston's portrait in Philadelphia, the second temporary American capital. He chose to give Washington's "military character, in the most sublime moment of its exertion the evening previous to the Battle of Princeton," during the American Revolution. "I told the President my object; he entered into it warmly, and, as the work advanced, we talked of the scene, its dangers, its almost desperation. He looked the scene again, and I happily transferred to the canvass, the lofty expression of his animated countenance, the high resolve to conquer or to perish." South Carolina Congressman William Loughton Smith, however, "thought the city would be better satisfied with a more matter-of-fact likeness, such as they had recently seen him calm, tranquil, peaceful." Washington agreed to additional sittings, saying that Trumbull should "keep this picture for yourself . . . and finish it to your own taste." The replacement portrait was unveiled in Charleston in July 1792.