From Charles Peale Polk
New York Augt 6 1790
Encouraged by your Excellencys Known Affibelity and admirable Condesention; A Citezen of Philadelphia Humbly requests the Indulgance of an Interview.
His Errand tho’ far from being disenterested to himself, He hopes will be very far from being displeasing or Offensive to your Excellency.
His Object is if Possible to Obtain the Honorable priveledge of One Short Setting from the President to enable him to finish a portrait of your Excellency (in head Size) Prapaired with that design.
He has in the Course of the last year, Executed Fifty Portraits, tho his advantages ware not what he wished, But Imagines if your Excellencys leizure and Inclination will permit he shall hereafter be capable of Exebiting more Just and Finished performances—The resemblance of Him, whose Charector will never be Obliterated from the hearts of True Americans.
Should this request meet your Excellencys favour, not only will the desires of many Respectable Citezens be gratified; But the Interests of a depending Family greatly permoted1—And the Pleasure Vastly Increased of your Excellencys most Obedient devoted Servt
Charles Peale Polk
Charles Peale Polk (1767–1822) lived with his wife Ruth Ellison Polk and four children on Vermont Street in Southwark, Philadelphia, and described himself as a limner. The son of Elizabeth Digby Peale (1747–c.1774) and privateer Capt. Robert Polk of Accomac, Va. (1744–1777), he was brought up in Philadelphia by his maternal uncle, the artist Charles Willson Peale, after the deaths of his parents. He first advertised himself as a portrait painter in 1785 and in 1787 was a house, ship, and sign painter. By 1791 he had moved to Baltimore and before the turn of the century lived in Richmond where he offered for sale copies of his paintings of GW, Benjamin Franklin, and Lafayette. He later lived in Washington, D.C., where he held a government clerkship from 1818 until his death (Heads of Families [Pennsylvania], 208; Eisen, Portraits of Washington, description begins Gustavus A. Eisen. Portraits of Washington. 3 vols. New York, 1932. description ends 2:404; Sellers, Charles Willson Peale, description begins Charles Coleman Sellers. Charles Willson Peale. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1947. description ends 1:6, 116–17, 178–79, 264, 2:415,422).
1. No reply to Polk’s request has been found, and it is unlikely that GW sat for him in August 1790 or that any of his GW portraits were painted from life. Many of them were copied from those painted by his uncles James and Charles Willson Peale (Eisen, Portraits of Washington, description begins Gustavus A. Eisen. Portraits of Washington. 3 vols. New York, 1932. description ends 1:306, 2:404; Sellers, Charles Willson Peale description begins Charles Coleman Sellers. Charles Willson Peale. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1947. description ends , 1:258 and note 1).