George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Joseph Wright, 10 January 1784

To Joseph Wright

Mount Vernon 10th Jan. 1784


When you have finished my Portrait, which is intended for the Count de Solms, I will thank you for handing it to Mr Robert Morris, who will forward it to the Count de Bruhl (Minister from his Electoral Highness of Saxe at the Court of London) as the Channel pointed out for the conveyance of it.1

As the Count de Solms proposes to honor it with a place in his collection of Military Characters, I am perswaded you will not be deficient in point of execution. Be so good as to forward the cost of it to me, & I will remit you the money.2 Let it (after Mr Morris has seen it) be carefully packed to prevent injury. With great esteem—I am Sir, Yr Most Obedt Servant

Go: Washington

ALS, PHi: Dreer Collection; LB, DLC:GW.

Joseph Wright (1756–1793) went in the early 1770s from New Jersey with his mother Patience Lovell Wright to live in London. Mrs. Wright became a secret agent for America during the war; her son studied with the painter Benjamin West and established a reputation as a portrait painter. In 1782 Joseph Wright went to Paris under the patronage of Benjamin Franklin and then sailed from Nantes to America. He remained in his native country, living in New York or Philadelphia, until his death from yellow fever in 1793. By tradition Wright’s portrait of GW (see frontispiece) belonged to Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, in whose family it descended until 9 Nov. 1891 when Oliver Hopkinson donated it to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Washington himself commissioned a copy (now unlocated) for the Graf zu Solms und Tecklenburg. Samuel Powel commissioned a copy which also is now in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Jefferson commissioned still another copy to take with him to France in 1784. Wright painted only the head and outline of the body in Jefferson’s copy (now in the Massachusetts Historical Society), and the work was finished in Paris by the artist John Trumbull. Jefferson wrote that he had “no hesitation in pronouncing Wright’s drawing to be a better likeness of the General than Peale’s” (Jefferson to Barré, 11 July 1785, in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 8:281–82).The exact dates of Washington’s sittings for the portrait are not known. See the references in note 1.

2On 15 May 1784, in Philadelphia, GW paid Wright £18 “for Drawing my Picture for Ct DeSolm 40 Drs” (Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 199), even though the comte de Brühl had agreed to pay for it (Brühl to GW, 4 Sept. 1783).

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