From Joseph Willard
Cambridge [Mass.] November 7. 1789.
When you were in the Philosophy Chamber of the University in this place,1 you may perhaps remember, that I expressed my wishes, that your Portrait might, some time or other, adorn that Room. Since that, Mr Savage, the Bearer of this, who is a Painter, and is going to New York, has called on me, and of his own accord, has politely and generously offered to take your Portrait for the University, if you will be so kind as to sit.2 As it would be exceedingly grateful to all the Governors of this literary Society, that the Portrait of the Man we so highly love, esteem and revere, should be the property of, and be placed within Harvard College, permit me, Sir, to request the favor of your sitting for the purpose; which will greatly oblige the whole Corporation, and particularly him, who has the honor of being, with sentiments of the highest respect, Sir your most humble and obedient servant
Joseph Willard (1738–1804) served as president of Harvard from 1781 to 1804.
1. During his New England tour GW visited Harvard on 29 Oct. 1789 and was received in the “Philosophy-room of the University” (Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 13 Nov. 1789). As GW noted in his diary entry for this day, “I was shewn by Mr. Willard the President the Philosophical Aparatus and amongst other Popes Orary (a curious piece of Mechanism for shewing the revolutions of the Sun, Earth and many other of the Planets)—The library (containing 13,000 volumes) and a Museum” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:481–83).
2. The painter Edward Savage (1761–1817) began GW’s portrait in New York on 21 December. GW noted that he “Sat from ten to one Oclock for a Mr. Savage to draw my Portrait for the University of Cambridge in the State of Massachusetts at the request of the President and Governors of the said University” (ibid., 509). The portrait “represents Washington in a military coat, with angular opening between coat collar and lapel. On the latter are two large buttons. . . . On the left lapel is the badge of the Order of the Cincinnati” (Eisen, Portraits of Washington, description begins Gustavus A. Eisen. Portraits of Washington. 3 vols. New York, 1932. description ends 2:457, 462–65). GW gave Savage further sittings on 28 Dec. and 6 Jan. 1790 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:511, 6:2). GW replied to Willard’s letter on 23 December.