A George Washington Portrait Goes on Sale, Held at the Met

A George Washington Portrait, Held at the Met, Goes on Sale at Christie's In Order to Fund Museum's New Acquisitions.

Jan 7, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The Met, A George Washington Portrait
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) entrance façade in Upper East Side, Manhattan, New York City. Via Wikipedia


A George Washington portrait, currently owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, goes on sale at Christie’s. Gilbert Stuart’s 1795 portrait of the first American president is going on sale because the Met needs to collect funds for its new acquisitions. When the picture is put up for auction, it can bring about $2.5 million.


A George Washington Portrait Has Many Versions

A George Washington Portrait
Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd. 2003.


The work of art is part of the Important Americana sale at Christie’s. This auction house is happening from January 18–19 in New York. Also, the estimated fetching price for the piece is between $1.5 million and $2.5 million. The founding father appears in front of a crimson foreground in this approximately 29 by 23-inch artwork in oil. It is one of around 104 paintings of America’s first president made by Stuart.


This includes his famed Athenaeum Portrait (1796). This portrait occured onto the surface of US postal stamps and $1 bills, following their introduction by their common acquaintance and the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Jay. The artist created roughly 14 known versions of the same piece, of which the portrait at the Met is one. Different version reside at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., Harvard Art Museums, and the Frick Collection in New York.


portrait thomas jefferson and emperor napoleon bonaparte. A George Washington Portrait
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Gilbert Stuart via the Bowdoin College Museum of Art; with Portrait of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte by Jacques-Louis David, 1812, via the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC


One hangs at the ritzy private school Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. The National Gallery of Art’s version has a reputation as George Washington (Vaughan portrait) (1795) after the painting’s initial proprietor, Samuel Vaughan. Vaughan was a London merchant and friend of the president. A “Vaughan-type” portrait qualifies as one of the most important works from Washington’s initial appointment with the painter.

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The Piece to Pay Off Its Next Purchaces

stuart portrait
George Washington ‘Athenaeum Portrait’ by Gilbert Stuart, 1796, via The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington


Christie’s claims that the Phillips family, textile merchants who backed the American Revolution and also based in Manchester, England, held a copy of the picture held by the Met. The portrait spent eight decades in the collection of the Met. The painting’s sale, according to the museum, will pay for its next purchases.


Other paintings portraying the other founding fathers of America will also be up for auction at Christie’s, including Rembrandt Peale’s 1852 picture of Washington (estimate: $300,000–$500,000) and Thomas Sully’s 1813 painting of Benjamin Rush, the treasurer (estimate: $100,000–$300,000).


thomas jefferson color portrait print
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, One of the United States’ Founding Fathers, via Brewminate


Also featured is painting by the first-known Black American professional portraitist, Joshua Johnson. The work depicts a mother and child named Martha and Mary Ann Dorsey, and has remained in the family’s possession since it was painted around 1804.


















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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.