American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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A Portrait of Washington

George Washington
Charles Balthazar Julien
Fevret de Saint-Mémin (1770-1852)
George Washington
Black and white chalk on paper, ca. 1800
Prints & Photographs Division

One of the most meticulous and elegant portraitists in America during the Federal period, Charles St. Memin employed modern theories and classical taste to create this unique memorial image of the nation's first president. The profile format was inspired both by contemporary writings on physiognomy, which held that cranial structure revealed moral character and intellectual capabilities, and by recent excavations of Greek antiquities, which showed that profiles were preferred by that early democratic model for the new American republic.

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