Item No: ELK0040001
Title: His Excellcy. George Washington, Esqr. General and commander in chief of the Allied Armies, supporting the independence of America. Taken from an Original Picture in posession of his Excy Govr. Hancock. / B. Blyth del. J. Norman sculp.
Rare Book Department
George Washington's image was recognizable by his contemporaries, partly because of how often it was painted and engraved, and reprinted in publications throughout the colonies. Washington’s face became a symbol of unity, strength of character and leadership during the Revolutionary War and in the years that followed.
Depicted here is a full bust of Washington in uniform with decorative ribbons and epaulettes in an oval frame-like border, resting upon a small pedestal. Inscribed on the pedestal below is the text that reads: Temperance, / Prudence, / Fortitude, / Justice / B Blyth del. J. Norman Sculp. / His Excellcy. George Washington, Esqr. / General and Commander in Chief of the Allied Armies, / Supporting the Independence of America. / Taken from an Original Picture in possession of his Excy Govr. Hancock / Published by John Coles, Boston, March. 26th 1782.
John Norman, originally from London, arrived in Philadelphia in 1774. He advertised himself as an engraver of maps, architectural illustrations, portraits, landscapes, frontispieces. He also ornamented watch cases, printed copperplates, gave drawing lessons and sold prints and frames. As an engraver he often copied the drawings or paintings of more well established artists.
Norman played a significant role in popularizing Washington’s image during the Revolutionary period, specifically Charles Willson Peale's portrait of George Washington. The inscription below Washington's bust indicates that Norman engraved his plate from the drawing of Benjamin Blyth. It is believed that Blyth modeled his drawing of Washington's face on Charles Willson Peale's portrait of Washington that he painted for John Hancock in 1776. Peale's portrait of Washington from which Norman's engraving is originally based is considered the first authentic likeness of Washington to appear in American prints. It remained a popular image of Washington throughout the century.
Benjamin Blyth was an American painter born in Salem, who began his professional career in the 1760s, working in and around Boston throughout the decade. Some of his contemporaries dismissed him as a second rate painter. He worked with pastels and painted oil portraits until 1786, at which point he moved to Richmond, VA. Blyth’s sitters are said to be frequently stiff and have a blank gaze. Approximately 30 pastels paintings are attributed to him, his most famous ones being portraits of John and Abigail Adams.
Stauffer, David McNeely, and Joseph Pennell. 1907. American engravers upon copper and steel. New York: Grolier Club of the City of New York. P.387. Stauffer 2351.
Creation Year (Single Year or Range Begin):
Reaves, Wendy Wick. 1982. George Washington, an American icon: the eighteenth-century graphic portraits. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. P.89.
Blyth, Benjamin, 1746-1787? - Artist - Artist
Norman, John, 1748?-1817 - Engraver - Engraver
Coles, John, 1749 or 1750-1809 - Publisher
Peale, Charles Willson, 1741-1827. - Artist - Artist
- Washington, George, 1732-1799
- Norman, John, 1748?-1817
- Blyth, Benjamin, 1746-1787?
- Coles, John, 1749 or 1750-1809
- Peale, Charles Willson, 1741-1827.
- United States History Revolution, 1775-1783