George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Charles Willson Peale, 12 December 1780

To Charles Willson Peale

New Windsor 12th Decr 1780

Dr Sir,

I perswade my self you will embrace the oppertunity of the Marquis la Fayette’s visit to Philadelphia to give the picture of him the finishing touches. You may not have another oppertunity and I wish for its completion. I am Dr Sir Yr Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. as I presume you must be done with my picture of the King of Prussia ’ere this I should be glad to have it returned to me.


Peale replied to GW, presumably from Philadelphia, on 18 Dec.: “I expect that the Marquis will give me a setting tomorrow, I waited on him in the beginning of


Fig. 5. GW commissioned artist Charles Willson Peale to create this portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette. (Courtesy of Museums at Washington and Lee University)

last Week and found that he was engaged with the other foreugn Officers in taking a View of the several Grounds of battles and Encamptments. My intention is to give you the most compleat portrait I am Capable of painting.

It is Many months since I sent your picture of the King of Prussia to Genl Wilkinson—I intend to wait on him to know whether he had sent it forward or not—please to make my most Respectful Compliments to Mrs Washington, that I have not yet the good fortune to get any thing from France, but think it very probable I may yet before the close of our River, as several Vessels are expected, and I shall not fail to supply Mrs Washington with those Glasses desired. … P.S. I have seen Genl Wilkinson, who informs that he sent your picture by Capt. Lansdale Who was going to camp at least Six mon[th] s past” (ADfS, PPAmP: Charles Willson Peale Papers). For Major General Lafayette’s touring with French officers, see his first letter to GW, 5 Dec., and n.9. For Peale’s portrait of Lafayette, see his letter to GW, 21 July, and n.2. GW’s picture of King Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great) has not been identified.

Peale wrote Martha Washington from Philadelphia on 16 Jan. 1781 that because “no foreign Glass[es] were to be had I have moulded some Glasses of the best Glass that could be had and afterwards got a Laperdarry to polish them, which I hope will not be imferiour to those made abroad. …

“I should be glad to be informed whether the portrait of the King of Prussia has yet reached head quarters: please to acquaint his Excellency that his picture of the Marquis is much aprroved off altho’ not entirely finished, for I have thought proper to ma[k]e an entire change of the back ground” (PPAmP: Charles Willson Peale Papers). Martha Washington probably met Peale while in Philadephia during her travels to GW’s winter headquarters (see Robert Hanson Harrison to GW, 28 Nov. 1780, n.15).

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