What is this?
That detail shows Washington's fob seal. A fob seal was a stamp of a coat of arms or a similar symbol, engraved in a gemstone and set in wood, gold, or ivory, then attached to the person's clothing with a chain or strap. Washington owned several elegant fobs with gold settings. He was shown wearing fobs in many portraits, as well as the painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Why do all these old portraits feature guys posing with their hands in their shirts?
The hand-in-waistcoat pose was very popular in 18th- and early 19th-century American and European portraits. This pose dates back to ancient Greece, when it was used by orators. In Washington's time, it was thought to combine leadership and quiet confidence, so etiquette books recommended it for gentlemen who wanted to appear calm and in control. The hand-in-coat gesture later became associated with Napoleon because he was often portrayed this way as well.
How much did Hancock pay Peale for this portrait originally?
Great question! However, we don't have any record of the price paid available.
I wonder if famous painters then were paid a lot or a little. I believe they depended on patrons or commissions, like composers.
Artists were paid very well by wealthy and powerful individuals that commissioned them to paint portraits of themselves and family members.
When was this painted?
This was actually painted by the artist Charles Willson Peale in 1776, right at the height of the Revolutionary War!
That's interesting, Washington looks so young!
He does! There are is another painting of President Washington nearby that looks a little different. It was made by Gilbert Stuart years later, when Washington was President. They make an interesting comparison.
Tell me more.
The first portrait of Washington is known as the Lansdowne Portrait. Stuart's Athenaeum Portrait is the basis for the $1 bill. This second portrait is from much earlier in Washington's career, when he was still a general.
Washington famously hated sitting for portraits. He sat for a few artists, including Stuart and Peale, out of a sense of duty.