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Auction: Rare Portrait of George Washington

The painting, created by artist Gilbert Stuart, has been in the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1944. The museum has decided to sell the piece early next year to raise money for its acquisition fund.

Portrait of George Washington
Credit: Christie's

“The Met annually deaccessions works of art, following comprehensive review with a focus on similar or duplicate objects,” says a museum spokesperson in a statement shared with the Art Newspaper. “The funds from this sale will enable the museum to further prioritize the acquisition of outstanding works of art.”

The rare portrait of George Washington could sell for as much as $2.5 million at auction in January. 

In the portrait, the nation’s first president sits in front of a crimson backdrop while wearing a dark coat atop a white ruffled shirt. His blue eyes gaze directly at the viewer. Stuart painted the work in late 1795. Around the same time, he also created several other Washington paintings that came to be known collectively as the “Vaughan” series. They are named after John Vaughan, who is thought to have commissioned the original portrait.

Just 14 works from the “Vaughan” series are known to exist today, according to Christie’s. Four are in private hands, while the others are part of various museum and university collections, including the National Gallery of Art and Harvard University.

The Met has two of the paintings: the one going to auction, which is referred to as the Philips-Brixey portrait, and another that’s known as the Gibbs-Channing-Avery portrait.

The piece will be sold during Christie’s Important Americana sale, which is scheduled for January 18 and 19.


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