Friday, February 21, 2014

Happy Washington’s Birthday on February 22nd

There have been prints depicting George Washington with his family since the 1790s, when self-taught artist Edward Savage produced one based on the painting he completed in 1796. Especially numerous in the years surrounding the Civil War when political animosities were rampant, such prints presented scenes of domestic tranquility.

Our personal favorite is the mezzotint that William Sartain engraved, based on a painting by Christian Schussele: 

William Sartain after Christian Schussele. Washington and His Family (Philadelphia: Bradley & Co., 1864). Hand-colored mezzotint (proof copy). Purchased with funds from the Davida T. Deutsch Women’s History Fund.

This lofty mezzotint, with its deep black tones and hand-coloring, was produced for the high end of the print market. So imagine our surprise to see that the Schussele composition gets recycled in the 20th century as a lowly postcard: 

After Christian Schussele. Washington Birthday Greetings (ca. 1910). Postcard. Gift of John H. Serembus.

Do plan a visit to the Library Company to see a selection of prints depicting the Washington family – in a mini-exhibition showing off adaptations and responses to Edward Savage’s original work.
Free and open to the public 9 am to 4:45 pm, Monday through Friday.

Cornelia S. King
Chief of Reference

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