The painting in the foreground is known as the “Lansdowne Portrait” of George Washington, and is regarded as the most famous painting of the first President of the United States. It was a replica of this painting that Dolley Madison famously saved from an about to be torched White House during the War of 1812.
This painting is known as the Lansdowne Portrait because it was painted for the Marquess of Lansdowne (who was also the Prime Minister of Great Britain) in 1796 by renowned American portraitist Gilbert Stuart. When the painting was finished, Stuart was asked to paint an exact replica of it for the White House, and that is the painting Dolley Madison saved from the fiery British (which is ironic when you consider the original was painted for Britain’s Prime Minister).
In 2001, The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation paid $30 million for the painting, and gave it to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., where it is on prominent display as the museum’s most famous (and expensive) painting.
The National Portrait Gallery, which is owned by the Smithsonian and is housed in the same building as the America Art Museum, has the largest public collection of Presidential portraits in America (the White House has the largest number of Presidential portraits, but a public tour of the building is limited to a few rooms and the vast majority of these paintings are rarely if ever seen by the general public).
If you come to Washington, D.C., and are interested in seeing famous paintings and other art, do not just go to the National Gallery of Art, but venture a few blocks up town to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. George Washington will be so glad to see you, he will reach out his hand to you.
Camera: Canon Rebel XTi 400D
(ISO: 800; SS: 1/6; AV: 4.0; Lens: 17-85mm)