Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Portrait of Washington Irving

I finished the previous post without sharing one of the young Washington Irving's important attributes: he was a bit of all right. How annoying it must have been for Rebecca's prospective suitors to see her obviously enjoying the company of another, and more handsome, young man.

This portrait, now in the collection of Historic Hudson Valley, Tarrytown NY, was painted in 1811 by John Wesley Jarvis. In January of that year, Irving and his friend Henry Brevoort visited Philadelphia where Rebecca reported, "They are pleased with everybody and everybody are pleased with them." Washington must have been sitting for the portrait at this time because Rebecca says that he had refused to show the painting to the Gratz family and intended to have it altered on his return to the city. By May the portrait must have been completed to his liking because it was part of a large exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Rebecca wrote to Maria Fenno Hoffman: "Tell Washington all the belles at the exhibition commended his picture....he is a great favorite." Along with "the belles," Irving liked this image of himself (as who would not): the painting hung at Sunnyside, his home in Tarrytown NY, during his lifetime.

(Rebecca's January 1811 letter is from the Gratz Family Collection at the American Jewish Historical Society, and the one from May is from the New York Historical Society.)

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