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Painting of the head and shoulders of an older man with powdered hair and a dark coat

A light-skinned, gray haired man faces the viewer, visible from the chest up. He has long gray hair that is tied back with a black ribbon. His eyes are blue, and his complexion is pink, especially around his cheeks and long, straight nose. His chin is slightly lifted. The man wears a ruffled white cravat and a dark coat with the lapels turned up. He sits before red drapery that is pulled to the left, revealing a cloudy blue sky. The light in this painting is soft and directional, highlighting the man’s face and leaving his torso mostly in shadow.

Gallery Text

Stuart created more than a hundred portraits of George Washington. Scholars group them into three types, named for their original owners: the unfinished “[Boston] Athenaeum” portraits, showing the left side of Washington’s face (such as the image on the U.S. dollar); the Samuel “Vaughan” portraits, which show the right side of Washington’s face; and the full-length “Lansdowne” portraits. In this example of the Vaughan type, the second-term president looks majestic and vigorous in his advanced years. He is positioned in three-quarter profile against a sweeping curtain that symbolizes state authority. His hair, styled in what’s called a soldier’s queue and tied with a sawtooth bow, appears freshly cut and powdered. The upturned collar of his velvet suitcoat projects height and wealth. The portrait represents Washington as an august actor on the world stage and suggests how gender, race, and visual scale can engage and inform ideologies of power.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Gilbert Stuart, American (North Kingstown, RI 1755 - 1828 Boston, MA)
George Washington (1732 - 1799)
George Washington (1732-1799)
Other Titles
Former Title: George Washington-- "Vaughan" type
Former Title: The Fisher Family Portrait
Former Title: The Fisher-Tyler Portrait
Work Type
c. 1795
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
73.7 x 61 cm (29 x 24 in.)
framed: 92.7 x 79.4 x 7.6 cm (36 1/2 x 31 1/4 x 3 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Fisher Family, Philadelphia, 1796, sold; to Mrs. George F. Tyler, Philadelphia, 1921, by descent; to Sydney F. Tyler, Carbondale, CO, gift; to Harvard University, 1969.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard University Portrait Collection, Gift of Sidney F. Tyler to the University, 1969
Object Number
European and American Art

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Vaughan Type

Publication History

  • Mantle Fielding, Gilbert Stuart's Portraits of Washington (1923), no. 6, ill. opp. p. 39
  • Lawrence Park, Gilbert Stuart: An lllustrated Descriptive List of His Works, vol. I - IV, W. E. Rudge (New York, NY, 1926), vol. II, pp. 848-49, no. 6
  • John Hill Morgan and Mantle Fielding, The Life Portraits of Washington and their Replicas, Lancaster Press, Inc. (Lancaster, PA, 1931), p. 253, no. 6, ill. opp. p. 256
  • Charles Merrill Mount, Gilbert Stuart: A Biography, W. W. Norton & Company (New York, NY, 1964), p. 378
  • The Frick Collection: An Illustrated Catalogue. Volume I: Paintings: American, British, Dutch, Flemish, and German, The Frick Collection (New York, 1968), p. 4
  • Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, Peter G. Huenink, Earl A. Powell III, Harry Z. Rand, and Nanette C. Sexton, American Art at Harvard, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), cat. 23, ill.
  • Dorinda Evans, Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, Bicentennial Exhibition, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, 1976), pp. 170-171
  • Timothy Anglin Burgard, American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1994), pp. 2, 10, cat. 2
  • Carrie Rebora Barratt and Ellen G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art / Yale University Press (New York, 2004), pp. 141-142, ill. p. 142, fig. 86
  • Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. and Melissa Renn, American Paintings at Harvard, Volume One: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826, Yale University Press (U.S.) and Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge and New Haven, 2014), pp. 33, 398, 448-50, cat. 415, ill.
  • Cristina Morilla, "Conservation as Cultural Practice: The Portrait Collection of Indigenous Delegates by Henry Inman", Studies in Conservation (March 21, 2024), p. 8, fig. 18

Exhibition History

  • American Art at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/19/1972 - 06/18/1972
  • Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, Bicentennial Exhibition, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 04/09/1976 - 10/10/1976
  • American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/01/1994 - 12/30/1994
  • 32Q: 2200 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 11/14/2022

Related Works

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