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A Spectacular George Washington by James Sharples
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JAMES SHARPLES. George Washington, pastel on paper, 9.2 by 7.5 in.

Inventory #24655       Price: $85,000

James Sharples (1751 - 1811) came to America in 1793 with his family of artists: wife, Ellen, and sons Felix and James, Jr. They settled in Philadelphia in 1797 and immediately became known for local portraiture. James and Ellen Sharples likely visited George and Martha Washington in 1796 in Philadelphia, or in the beginning in 1797 in Mount Vernon after Washington retired. Scholars have suggested that Sharples may have visited Washington as many as four times.

While Sharples painted oil portraits in England, the trip to America and the need for economical shipment of materials caused him to concentrate on smallish pastels, mostly executed on a fine velvety gray paper. Sharples went back to oil painting after he returned to London shortly after completing his first portrait of Washington.

This is one of Sharples’ finest portraits of Washington. Other versions are in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery as well as the National Portrait Gallery in London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Independence Hall, and Colonial Williamsburg.


Beautiful and fine overall, but for the sake of accuracy we note a tear and very minor loss on the left side into the chest, which has been filled and colored, a 2” tear in the center right background, and slight discoloration top left. Recent conservation report available on request.


Sotheby’s, January 19, 2017, Collection of E. Newbold and Margaret DuPont Smith. (The meager description neglected to mention the Nicholson Collection and prior provenance.)

W Graham Arader III;

Christie’s, January 27, 1995, lot 843. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eddy Nicholson;

Christie’s, December 4, 1987, lot 6, private Collection, Texas;


W. Jones, and C.M. Kneass, Catalogue of the Portraits and Other Works of Art: Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1915, p. 176

K.M. Knox, The Sharples: Their Portraits of George Washington and His Contemporaries, New Haven, Connecticut, 1930, pp. 70-78

G.A. Eisen, Portraits of Washington, New York, 1932, Vol. II, pp. 506-523

F.F. Sherman, “The Portraits of the Sharples Family,” Art in America, Springfield, Massachusetts, April, 1944, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 84-86

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