1839 Engraved Portrait of General George Washington by Jean Nicolas Laugier after Leon Cogniet, 1924 Re-Strike

The monochrome engraving was originally published in 1839 in New York. This 1924 re-strike likely used the same original engraving plate and is dated in the margins. Based off of Léon Cogniet’s painting from 1836, the engraving was done by Jean Nicolas. Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Washington served as the model for Cogniet’s depiction of the general. The early 20th century saw a surge in demand for George Washington memorabilia leading to famous prints, like this one, to be re-struck to meet demand.

The engraving depicts George Washington, his horse “Old Nelson” and a groom or valet.  The unidentified scene may be Yorktown, site of the final major battle of the Revolutionary War. Washington stands in full uniform atop a promontory. His groom steadies the general's white steed. A cannon points towards a redoubt (possibly Number Ten on Gloucester Point) which has been reduced to smoldering ruins. The clouds are overcast, but more so seaward, symbolizing the threat from England and her celebrated navy. In fact, the fate of Cornwallis was doomed when a combined British fleet failed to destroy the French fleet commanded by Admiral de Grasse and were forced to return to New York.

Léon Cogniet (1794-1880) was a French painter of the Romantic school who specialized in portraits and historical subjects.  In 1812, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he studied under Pierre-Narcisse Guérin at the same time as Delacroix and Géricault. He was a resident at the Villa Medici, in Rome, from 1817 to 1822.  Like many historical painters, his works were issued as engravings for sale to the general public — this being one of the very first original engravings.  Washington Parke Custis, step-grandson and adopted son of the General, considered the engraving one of his favorite of his famous step-grandfather.  The painter may have been inspired to choose this subject in light of the decisive role played by French forces.

It is believed that Cogniet copied Washington’s head from the original “Virginia Regiment” portrait by Gilbert Stuart, which was painted from life in 1796 - and the source of the “flopped” image of Washington we find on the current one dollar bill.  G.W. Parke Custis wrote that Washington's "matchless limbs" were rarely portrayed well, and singled out Jean Nicolas Laugier's 1839 engraving of the Cogniet painting (along with a portrait by Trumbull) as being two of the better examples.

The print was based on the painting by Leon Cogniet, which was in turn based on Gilbert Stuart's portrait, and engraved by Jean Nicolas Laugier in 1839.This beautifully engraved, large-format portrait of Washington is after a painting by the French artist Cogniet, with the face being after Gilbert Stuart. Standing full-length in uniform in front of his horse, with cannon in the fore-ground and a port (Boston harbor?) in the background, this magisterial depiction aptly portrays Washington's commanding size and presence. In his "Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington," George Washington Parke Custis, wrote that Washington's "matchless limbs have in but two instances been faithfully portrayed: in the equestrian portrait by Trumbull, of 1790 ... and in an engraving by Loisier [i.e., Laugier], from a painting by Cogniet, French artists of distinguished merit. The latter is not an original painting, the head being from Stuart, but the delineation of the limbs is the most perfect extant."

CONDITION:

The engraving is uncolored. Strong impression. Some mild rippling present. Otherwise, paper is healthy and without notable damage.

Framed Dimensions: 27 ¾” H x 23 ½” W




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