The huge portrait of Martha Washington that balances the famous Gilbert Stuart painting of her husband, was painted more than seventy five years after her death.
White House Portraits
Before photography had advanced sufficiently to achieve artistic popularity, a portrait was the only way a person’s likeness could be preserved for posterity. The accuracy of that likeness, of course, was completely dependent on the talents of the artist.
Most early presidents provided their own White House furniture, although many pieces were accumulated for the formal downstairs rooms. This also included art. Few early presidents had many portraits painted, let alone specifically for the house itself. First Lady portraits, if there were any, were reserved for their families and heirs.
The most famous of the early…
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