The Green Tree: Highlights from the Collection of the Mutual Assurance Company of Philadelphia - April 2007
Rembrandt Peale
George Washington, after 1846
Graphite on tracing paper, 11 × 13 1/2 inches
Provenance: Rembrandt Peale; his second wife Harriet Cany Peale; her nephew Charles Paine Herring; to his wife, to their daughter Louise Cany Herring, 1927; purchased by the Mutual Assurance Company of Philadelphia, 1932.
References: Garvan and Wojtowicz 1977, 56, illus.
RS 6234

In 1932 Louise Cany Herring, the last private owner of this drawing and a collateral descendant of the artist, identified it as “a scale” for an 1856 replica by Peale of his famous Washington portrait, the Patriae Pater.1 Since this drawing and the oil replica, which is discussed next entry, have the same provenance, it indeed seems likely that this “scale” either was derived from or was used to create this picture. It is also possible that both the oil portrait and the drawing may be linked to the creation of the life-size lithographic portrait heads of Washington that Peale produced in 1856. He called these handsome images his “monochromes” since he finished and improved each of the impressions by hand.2

This drawing is unique in Peale’s oeuvre and reveals the process by which he standardized his numerous Washington portraits. Since it was of utmost importance to the artist that he provide his patrons with an exact replica of his original conception, he needed to be certain that the character of the features and their relative dimensions were consistent from picture to picture. A “scale” was a perfect way to quantify what he had done previously and to use as a guide in completing new but nearly identical works. Garvan and Wojtowicz incorrectly dated this drawing to c.1795. However, Peale did not complete this particular type of Washington image until 1824, and he did not begin replicating the image on a smaller scale until 1846. Most significantly, the character and quality of his draftsmanship were far from being this professional when he was a fledgling artist in the mid-1790s.

—Carol Eaton Soltis


1. Louise Cany Herring to Mantle Fielding, June 9, 1932.

2. The dimensions of known impressions of these prints vary. The rectangular format is 30 × 24 inches, while those that have been cut for placement in an oval frame measure approximately 27 × 23 inches. In either case, their scale is consistent with the scale of the oil portraits. The legend on the prints typically reads: “Drawn by Rembrandt Peale from his original Portrait. Copy Right secured 1856. Duval & Co.” See W. S. Baker, The Engraved Portraits of Washington with Notices of the Original and Brief Biographical Sketches of the Painters (Philadelphia: Lindsay & Baker, 1880), no. 860, 123.


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