The Washington Family

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Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art
The Washington Family by Edward Savage (1789-96).

The Washington Family by Edward Savage is a life-sized group portrait of U.S. President George Washington, First Lady Martha Washington, two of her grandchildren, and a slave. Based on life studies made early in Washington's presidency, Savage began the work in New York City, 1789–90, and completed it several years later in Philadelphia, 1795–96.[1] The enormous painting (7 ft. x 9 ft. 4 in. / 213 cm. x 284 cm.) is now at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.[2]

The image was a famous one in the 19th century. Prints were mass-produced by Savage beginning in 1798, and by John Sartain in 1840.[3]

The setting for the painting is idealized, with the Potomac River flowing in the background. Shown are grandson George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington, granddaughter Eleanor Parke Custis, Martha Washington, and an enslaved servant (probably Christopher Sheels).

With a plan of the future city of Washington in front of her, Martha Washington is, according to Savage's catalogue, "pointing with her fan to the grand avenue" (now the National Mall).[2][4][5][6]


  1. Savage lived in London, 1791–94, and did not resume work on the painting until after his return to the United States.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Washington Family at National Gallery of Art
  3. The New York Times, December 30, 1892
  4. "Map 1: The L'Enfant Plan for Washington". National Park Service. Retrieved 2011-06-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Hanlon, Mary. "The Mall: The Grand Avenue, The Government, and The People". University of Virginia. Retrieved 2011-06-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. New York City was the capital of the United States from 1789-90, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania served as temporary national capital from 1790-1800, while Washington was under construction.