DescriptionGeorge Washington: Jeremiah Paul Historical Painting. 29" x 24" oil on canvas depicting George Washington taking leave of his family as he assumes command of United States forces during the "quasi-war" with France in 1798. Relations with former ally France had turned sour after the fall of the monarchy. Congress refused to make payments on French loans and also signed numerous trade agreements with Britain. France demanded a bribe and an apology to restore diplomatic relations (the "XYZ Affair"). When rebuffed, they authorized privateering against American merchant vessels. America hurriedly built a fleet of twenty-five vessels to counter the threat and, on July 9, 1798, Congress authorized military action. President Adams asked George Washington to come out of retirement and assume the role of Commander-in-Chief. The conflict, derided as a Quasi-War, consisted exclusively of naval engagements lasting two years.
Jeremiah Paul, Jr. (d. 1820) received training from Charles Wilson Peale, Rembrandt Peale and Gilbert Stuart. He was involved with the first major public art exhibition in the United States, held in Philadelphia in 1795. From 1803 until his death in 1820, he was an itinerate portrait and sign painter. Very few of his works have appeared in the market.
The venerable general bids adieu to his wife and three step-grandchildren, George Washington Parke Custis, Eleanor Parke Custis and Elizabeth Parke Custis. One of the family slaves holds the general's horse at the ready. The columns on the Mt. Vernon porch with red drapery and tassels are also seen on Edward Savage's 1795 work "The Washington Family". A cypress and weeping willow tree on the shore may symbolize the death and mourning associated with war. Washington pivots with his right foot, reflecting reluctance to come out of retirement, leaving the peaceful pleasures of home. He holds the marshal's baton with one hand while extending his ungloved hand to his devoted wife Martha who hesitates to extend her hand, realizing the two may not meet again in this lifetime.
The work was sent to England for engraver Edward Bell to copy after which time it disappeared until recently resurfacing. The engraving displayed distinct differences from the painting. As late as 1959, the engraving was featured in a story in "Life" magazine, commenting on the "lost" status of the original.
The painting is signed "J Paul Junr" in red in the lower left corner. It is housed in a Federal period gilt frame with name plate reading: "'Washington Leaving His Family' Jeremiah Paul 1820". It has been cleaned and relined. There is a small spot of restoration above Washington's hat and scattered retouching of abrasions. The signature shows some evidence of being traced over or highlighted in spots. This is a remarkable work by any standard. Paintings of Washington done during his lifetime rarely appear in the market. We are honored to have been chosen to offer it.
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