April 19, 2004
CW to loan Madison portrait for National Exhibition of Gilbert Stuart works
Colonial Williamsburg will lend a portrait of James Madison for an exhibition of works by 18th-century painter Gilbert Stuart, who is considered to be the most successful and resourceful portraitist of America’s early national period. Jointly organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the display is the first major exhibition of works by Stuart since 1967. It will be on view to the public at the Metropolitan Museum in New York from Oct. 18, 2004 to Feb. 27, 2005 and at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., from April 8 to
July 31, 2005.
Over the course of his career, Stuart portrayed Madison four times, but Colonial Williamsburg’s version is the only one done from life. Donated by Mrs. George S. Robbins (Virginia C. Robbins) of Haverford, Pa., in 1945, the painting will be shown with its original companion portrait of Dolley Madison, which is owned by the White House.
Colonial Williamsburg owns two additional portraits of early American presidents by Gilbert Stuart. Its likeness of Thomas Jefferson (1755-1828) shares an early history of descent through the Robbins family. In 1945, John D. Rockefeller Jr. acquired the Jefferson portrait on behalf of Colonial Williamsburg. Historians continue to debate whether this painting resulted from a life sitting in 1805 in Washington, D. C., or was done afterward, based on the image created during that session.
Colonial Williamsburg’s portrait of George Washington (1732-1799) was not the first of Stuart’s several replicas of this well-known image, but was executed soon after the 1795 original. The foundation’s portrait was commissioned by General Henry (“Light Horse Harry”) Lee, one of Washington’s most brilliant and trusted officers. Mrs. Edward S. Harkness (née Mary Stillman) bequeathed it to Colonial Williamsburg.