Mount Vernon 3d Jany 1784
The Letter which you did me the honor to write from Konigstein on the gh of July last came safely to my hands a few days ago, accompanied by one from Monsr le Conte de Bruhl.1
I must entreat, my General, that you will accept my best acknowledgments for the favorable opinion you are pleased to express of my military character, as well as for your great politeness in proposing to introduce my likeness amongst your collection of heroes. I must likewise be permitted to assure you with how much satisfaction I should have embraced & welcomed, at my Seat on the banks of the Patowmac, the venerable Soudart,2 the noble Count de Solms, who has had the happiness to have served with, & to have been the friend & companion of those illustrious characters which now compose his inestimable collection, & into whose company, I am sensible it is no small honor, to have even my portrait admitted.
But as the distance, & circumstances will not permit me the pleasure of seeing you, I must be contented with giving the best demonstration of respect in my power; I have not delayed a moment therefore to comply with your wishes, but have employed a Gentleman to perform the work, who is thought on a former occasion to have taken a better likeness of me, than any other painter has done:3 His fortè seems to be in giving the distinguishing characteristics with more boldness than delicacy—And altho’ he commonly marks the features very strongly, yet I cannot flatter you, that you will find the touches of his pencil extremely soft, or that the portrait will in any respect equal your expectations. Such as it may be (& for your sake, I would wish the execution was as perfect as possible) it will be forwarded from Philada, to the orders of the Count de Bruhl, as soon as it is finished. & I pray your acceptance of it as a token of the great veneration & esteem with which I have the honor to be Your &ca
For most of his long life, Friedrich-Christoph, Graf zu Solms und Tecklenberg (1708–1789), had been in the service of the elector of Saxony (who until 1763 was also king of Poland), either as a military officer or as a high civil official. Humane and enlightened, he was a man of wide interests who wrote both history and poetry and boasted of a library of 10,000 volumes.
1. Solms wrote GW on 9 July 1783 that he had in his castle at Königstein on the Elbe a small collection of portraits of great men, including Prince Eugene, Maurice of Saxony, Frederick the Great, and Frederick’s brother Henry. He now wished to add Washington’s to the portraits of these men under whom he himself had “servi.” For the identity of the comte de Brühl, see GW to Brühl, this date.
2. Solms referred to himself as an old soldier. In closing his letter of July 1783 he wrote: “II faut bien que vous sachier aussi, qui est le vieux Soudart qui Vous importune—Eh Bien! C’est le Comte Solms, General d’Infantrie au Service de Saxe, Lieutenant General d’Infanterie au Service de S. M. tres Chretienne commandant de la forteresse de Konigstein, Commandeur des Ordres du Seraphin et de l’Epée du Suede, & le plus sincere Admirateur de l’lllustre Wasington” (DLC:GW).
3. The painter was Joseph Wright, who is identified in GW to Wright, 10 Jan. 1784. On 28 Aug. 1783 Charles Thomson, secretary of the Congress, sent Wright to GW’s headquarters at Rocky Hill, N.J., with a copy of an act of Congress of 7 Aug. 1783 providing for the erection of an equestrian statue of GW. Thomson, describing Wright to GW “as an Artist skilled in taking Busts,” asked GW to “admit him to try his talents.” Wright did make busts of GW, although the equestrian statue was never erected, and it was at this time that Wright painted the “likeness” to which GW refers here. The portrait is reproduced in the frontispiece. See the source note in GW to Joseph Wright, 10 January.