This is a large, handsome engraving entitled Washington and His Generals by Alexander H. Ritchie, one of the best historical printmakers of the mid-nineteenth century. Ritchie is particularly known for the clarity and richness of his engravings and this fine image is an excellent example of his work. The print was published in 1870.
The scene depicted is a historic re-creation of Washington’s farewell to his generals at Fraunces Tavern, in New York City. In the image, George Washington is shown surrounded by his generals. General Washington stands at the center of the congratulatory meeting, his noble pose accentuated by the sun streaming in from a window.
In 1783, only a few months after the end of the Revolutionary War and the British evacuation of the city, Washington gathered his generals to announce his retirement. He and his companions of the war met at the tavern beloved by early Revolutionaries. Washington planned to leave the public sphere and return to Mt. Vernon to live out his days as a “gentleman farmer.” Washington proclaimed to a room full of his friends, “With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you.” Unknown at the time, it would only be six years before the father of our country was called out of retirement to serve as the first President of the United States.
The portraits of Washington and the officers are excellent likenesses, making identification of most possible. Nathanial Greene, Alexander Hamilton, and G.M. Lafayette are displayed prominently in the foreground, while many of the naval contingent, including Commodores John Barry, Paul Jones, and Joshua Barney, are depicted together at left. The standing portrait of Washington is adapted from the full length statue by Houdon in Richmond, Virginia. The surrounding details of the room, including a bust of Benjamin Franklin and the classical furnishings, are also very finely engraved.
This engraving was certainly part of the myth-making associated with Washington in the nineteenth century, but one where the quality and size were well above the average. The rendition captures an important moment in the history of the nascent United States and provides striking portraits of the men who helped to win the war.
Overall very good condition. Black and white engraving, as issued. Print has been archivally stabilized. Paper is healthy, with no stains or signs of foxing. Full margins. Publication line at bottom reads: “Drawn & Engraved” (left), “New York Published by A. H. Ritchie & Co. 442 Broadway” (middle), and “By A.C.Ritchie” (right). Full title reads "Washington and his Generals” at the bottom center margin.
The engraving is artfully presented with acid-free mats, UV Plexiglas, and a custom-built gold frame, all according to modern archival standards. Framed dimensions: 41”H x 52”W x 2”D.