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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist, attributed to: Samuel Folwell, American, 1764–1813
Subject: George Washington, American, 1732–1799, LL.D. 1781

Memorial for George Washington (1732-1799), LL.D. 1781

ca. 1800

Watercolor and chopped hair on ivory

1 15/16 × 1 3/8 in. (4.9 × 3.5 cm)
Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Collection
1940.537

From the late eighteenth through mid-nineteenth century, the miniature was a visible, public family-mourning device, and the first president’s death united the nation as one family. This scene is typical of miniatures expressing national sorrow in allegorical terms usually reserved for personal loss. Here a lone female mourner sits weeping beneath a willow tree beside George Washington’s tomb. She simultaneously personifies Virtue, Liberty, America, and the grieving individual who wore this locket. The earth at her feet is textured with chopped hair, as if symbolically joining the miniature’s owner with the buried Washington.

Working as a painter, engraver, hairworker, needlework designer, silhouettist, and drawing master, Samuel Folwell made mostly allegorical memorials. Several feature overlapping trees, a curly-haired female mourner, and the phrase “Sacred to the Memory of the Illustrious Washington.” Folwell painted a silhouette of Washington from life in 1791, from which an engraving was made. At various points in his career, Folwell worked in Baltimore; New York; Charleston, South Carolina; and throughout New England. In his hometown of Philadelphia, Folwell and his wife Ann Elizabeth ran a school for girls, with a curriculum centered on drawing and needlework.

Geography: 
Made in United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
18th or 19th century
Classification: 
Miniatures - Jewelry
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.