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American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: Charles Willson Peale, American, 1741–1827
Subject: George Washington, American, 1732–1799, LL.D. 1781

George Washington at the Battle of Princeton


Oil on canvas

95 × 61 in. (241.3 × 154.9 cm)
Given by the Associates in Fine Arts and Mrs. Henry B. Loomis in memory of Henry Bradford Loomis, B.A. 1875

In 1779 Charles Willson Peale painted an official portrait of General George Washington (1732–1799, ll.d. 1781) to commemorate the victories of the Continental army at Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey. In response to the great popularity of the portrait, Peale produced a number of replicas, of which this is an example. Peale shows the general under a soaring American flag with the Hessian banners captured at Trenton clustered around his feet. In the background, American soldiers lead British prisoners off the field. In the original portrait and its immediate followers, Washington wears a blue ribbon across his breast, the insignia of the commander-in-chief since 1775. On June 18, 1780, however, Washington changed the military dress code, eliminating the blue sash and replacing it with three silver stars on the epaulettes. Peale clearly had started the present portrait before this date, as a long blue sash, painted out by the artist at a later date, today shows through. This pentimento, which records a specific moment in the history of American military dress, may be unique among the replicas of the portrait.

Made in United States
On view
18th century

Arthur S. Lefkowitz, Eyewitness Images from the American Revolution (Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 2017), 148, ill.

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.