Object Image

Martha Washington (The “Athenaeum” Portrait) 1731–1802

Born Chestnut Grove, Virginia. Although Gilbert Stuart made many copies of the president’s portrait over the years, this is thought to be his only painting of Martha Washington. Commissioned at the same time as The “Athenaeum” portrait of George Washington, Stuart’s portrait of the first lady has a similar history; the artist never finished it, and he kept it until his death.

In as early as 1800, when she was grieving the death of her husband, Martha Washington asked her friend Tobias Lear to press Stuart to deliver both portraits. Lear wrote to Stuart, “with all the persuasive language of which I [am] master, [I] prevail upon you to let Mrs. Washington have the Painting of her dear deceased h ...
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Oil on canvas
121.9 x 94.0cm
Image and text © National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2023

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