General George Washington at Trenton Artist: John Trumbull (American, 1756–1843)

1792

American Paintings and Sculpture

On view, 2nd floor, American Art before 1900

In 1792 the city of Charleston, South Carolina, commissioned from John Trumbull a portrait of George Washington for its city hall to commemorate the president’s visit in May 1791. The commission had personal significance for Trumbull, for he had served as Washington’s second aide-de-camp during the Revolution. Trumbull chose to convey the critical moment of Washington’s leadership during the Revolutionary War when his night maneuvers at Trenton, New Jersey, led to a decisive victory at Princeton the following day, a major turning point of the war. Trumbull considered this portrait the "best of those which I painted." In Trumbull’s blend of history painting and portrait, the commander in chief epitomizes heroism and nobility, yet Charleston refused to accept it on the grounds that they preferred a more amiable and peaceful image. Trumbull produced another likeness of Washington, this time with the city in the background, which Charleston accepted.

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

92 1/2 × 63 in. (235 × 160 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of the Society of the Cincinnati in Connecticut

Accession Number

1806.1

Culture
Period

18th century

Classification
Disclaimer

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 records is ongoing.

Provenance

Provenance

Society of the Cincinnati, Conn., 1806; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
Bibliography
  • Michelle Facos, An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art (New York: Routledge, 2011), 54, fig. 3.2
  • Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 67, 94, 116–17, 123, 219, no. 58, ill
  • Laurie Schneider, Exploring the Humanities Creativity and Culture in the West, 2 (Upper Saddle, N.J.: Pearson College UWC, 2006), 488, fig. 17.17
  • Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 8–9, fig. 8
  • Helen A. Cooper et al., John Trumbull: The Hand and Spirit of a Painter (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1982), n.p., 121, pl. 42, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

histories (visual works), human figures (visual works), military history, portraits

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