George Washington by Madame Brehan (Engraving)

Artist/Maker: Barthelemy Joseph Fulevan Roger (1767-1841), engraver, after P.F. Tardieu (1711-1771), from a drawing by Madame de Brehan (active in U.S. 1788-89)[1]

Created: 1801

Origin/Purchase: United States

Materials: stipple engraving

Dimensions: 15.1 x 10.2 (5 15/16 x 4 in.)

Location: Dining Room

Historical Notes: The French minister to the United States, the comte de Moustier, arrived in New York in 1787 with his sister-in-law, Madame de Brehan. Jefferson, then in Paris, knew both Moustier and de Brehan.[2] He sent glowing letters of introduction for them to John Jay and James Madison. "I think it possible," Jefferson wrote to Jay, "to find a better woman, more amiable, more modest, more simple in her manners, dress, and way of thinking."[3] Jefferson described de Brehan to Madison as "goodness itself...The way to please her is to receive her as an acquaintance of a thousand years standing."[4]

George Washington received Moustier and de Brehan at Mount Vernon in November 1788.[5] After their meeting, de Brehan began drawing a profile of Washington, which she finished on October 3, 1789, when she and Moustier visited the newly elected President Washington in New York. Washington recorded in his diary that he "sat about two Oclock for Madam de Brehan to complete a miniature profile of me which she had begun from Memory and which she had made exceedingly like the Original."[6]

Madam de Brehan brought with her to Paris the original profile of Washington, done in watercolor on ivory, and there Moustier had it engraved. He sent proofs of the prints to Washington in May 1790, and promised that de Brehan would send the original as a gift to Martha Washington once it returned from the engraver. The Washingtons were apparently enamored with the prints and presented several to their friends and associates.[7] Jefferson may have been among the recipients. He displayed Washington's profile by de Brehan in the Dining Room at Monticello; his copy is unlocated.

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 166-167.
  2. Howard C., Rice, Jr. Thomas Jefferson's Paris (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977), 44, 96.
  3. Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, Paris, October 8, 1787, in PTJ, 12:217. Letterpress copy available online from the Library of Congress.
  4. Jefferson to Madison, Paris, October 8, 1787, in Ibid, 12:219. Letterpress copy available online from the Library of Congress.
  5. George Washington, November 2, 1788, The Diaries of George Washington ed. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1979), 5:417.
  6. Ibid, 5:451.
  7. Annual Report of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, 1968: 20-25.

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