In 1795, Mr. and Mrs. William Bingham commission Gilbert Stuart to paint a portrait of George Washington. The Binghams, who are friends of Washington, are one of the wealthiest couples in the United States; their house occupies an entire city block in Philadelphia.
On April 12, 1796, Washington sits for the portrait in Gilbert Stuarts studio in Philadelphia. He only sits long enough to allow Stuart to paint his face. The rest of his body is based on that of a stand-in. The portraits setting is imaginary.
In 1796, Mr. and Mrs. William Bingham send the painting from Philadelphia to their friend, William Petty, the Marquis of Lansdowne in England. The Marquis of Lansdowne is a patron of the arts and an admirer of George Washington.
After the Marquis of Lansdownes death in 1806, the portrait is auctioned and sold to merchant-banker Samuel Williams. Washington had appointed Williams to a political post in Europe, and Williams brother Timothy is a friend of Gilbert Stuart. Upon Williams death, the painting is auctioned in a lottery and won by American merchant John Delaware Lewis.
After being owned for nearly 60 years by the family of John Delaware Lewis, the portrait is purchased by Archibald Philip Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery in England. In 1968, more than 70 years later, the 7th Earl of Rosebery lends it to the National Portrait Gallery.
From 1968 until 2000, the painting remains at the National Portrait Gallery on loan from the 7th Earl of Rosebery in England. In 2000, Lord Dalmeny, son of the 7th Earl of Rosebery, offers the National Portrait Gallery the chance to purchase it for the price of $20 million.
2000-2002 and beyond
In March 2001, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation announces that they will donate $30 million to the National Portrait Gallery to purchase the painting for the nation. The generous gift also provides for a national tour of the painting and a permanent place to display it at the Gallery.
|This exhibition was made possible through the generosity of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation|