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Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Inc.

John James Barralet and the Apotheosis of George Washington


Author(s): Phoebe Lloyd Jacobs
Source: Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 12 (1977), pp. 115-137
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Henry Francis du Pont
Winterthur Museum, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1180583
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John James Barralet
and the Apotheosis of
George Washington

PhoebeLloydJacobs

N JANUARY 1802 John James Barralet (ca. Europeansbefore the discovery of the Rosetta Stone:
1747-1815) honored the late GeorgeWashington intriguing to contemplate but indecipherable.
in a commemorative engraving (Fig. 1). Bar- A nineteenth century American populace educated
ralet'sengraving shows the president, dressedin grave in the traditionsof European humanism knew how to
clothes, being raised from his tomb by Immortality interpret allegorical imagery. Symbolic figures with
and the winged FatherTime who will assist him in his referencesto classical antiquity or the Christian past
ascent. Faith, Hope, and Charity are clustered were common. They adorned political engravings,
together at the far left. Liberty, her cap atop a pole, honorary medals, coins, official seals, and even the
and an American Indian share the lower registerwith corners of maps.2 Learned men expected sophisti-
two rattlesnakes and an eagle. In the nineteenth cated visual references. The artists, schooled in
century this engraving was popular enough to go the conventions of European humanism, acted as
through four printings,1 yet to most modern intermediariesto the less well educated public. When
viewers this image is what hieroglyphics were to askedto stage paradesand festivalscelebrating events
of historicsignificance in the new republic, they often
This study would not have been possible without the contri-
used allegorical figures and decorated triumphal
butions made by others. William Gerdts, when I was a tyro in arches with classical images.
a new field, encouraged me and gave me the benefit of his Citizens of the new republic would have found
knowledge. Elizabeth Roth and Roberta Waddell never failed to incongruous Ralph Waldo Emerson's later pro-
answermy many queriesand to make the facilities of the New York
nouncement: "Give me insight into today and you
LibraryPrint Room available to me. Davida Deutsch generously
shared informationabout advertisements for Barralet'sengraving may have the antique.... I embrace the common ...
before the publication of her own article in Antiques,in press, and sit at the feet of the familiar." In the federal
on memorial celebrations for Washington in 1800. David Kiehl, era the antique was the familiar. It was used to rein-
too, deservesspecial mention. I also wish to thank Leo Steinberg, force the significance of contemporary life. Barralet's
Liesl Feitelberg, Barbara Weinberg, and Mary Cope. I am espe-
cially gratefulto my husband, WilliamJacobs, forpatiently reading
engraving would have seemed neither unusual nor
over this manuscript and advising me. And no author could have uncommon.
been better served by her editors. The engraving of the apotheosis Barralet was- only one of the many who com-
of Washington exists in four different states. State 1. Inscription: memorated Washington's death, and not all works
[on tomb] Sacred / to the Memory of / Washington / OB 14 Dec honored the great leader's memory through allegory.
A) 1799 E t 68. / Signature: [on lid of tomb] I.J. Barralet / Fecit
Some portrayed the actual event. One simple engra-
[below engraving] Philadelphia Published by Simon Chaudron,
and John J. Barralet, Jany 1802. State 2. Signature: [below ving published in 1800 by Pember and Luzarder
engraving] Drawn and-Engraved by J. J. Barralet. Published depicted Washington attended by his doctors,James
22nd Feby 1816 by B. Tanner Engraver No. 74 South Eighth
Street. State 3. Same as 2 with 2 lines added: Commemoration of
Washington. / Printed by Cammeyer and Acock. State 4. Address 2 See
especially Neil Harris, The Artist in AmericanSociety(1966;
and printer'sline erased (David McNeely Stauffer, AmericanEngra- reprint ed., New York: Clarion Book, 1970), ch. 1; Frank H.
versuponCopperand Steel,2 vols. [New York: Grolier Club, 1907], Sommer, "Emblem and Device: The Origin of the Great Seal of
1:22, no. 118); the Print Room of the New York Public Library the United States,"ArtQuarterly 24, no. 1 (Spring 1961): 57-76. See
has six copies that include examples of all four states. also nn. 14, 17, 18, and 21.
116 WinterthurPortfolio 12

Fig. 1. John James Barralet, Apotheosis of George Washington. Published by Simon Chaudron and Barralet, Philadelphia,
Jan. 1802. Proof before letters. Stipple engraving; H. 24", W. 18 1/2". (Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of William
H. Huntington, 1883.)
JohnJamesBarraletandtheApotheosisof GeorgeWashington 117

very sore throat. The doctors could do nothing effec-


tive to relieve his increasing discomfort. Washington
died the following day, December 14, 1799. At his
bedsidewere Lear, the doctors,members of the family
and servants but no clergy.4
AfterWashington'sdeath his body was measured-
he was 6 feet 3 1/2 inches tall, 1 foot 9 inches
across the shoulders-and a mahogany coffin with a
cover of lead was orderedto size. On December 17 he
was interred in the family vault at Mount Vernon.
His body was undisturbed when the family vault was
vandalized in 1830 and was moved to a new family
vault the following year. Historian Benson J. Lossing
viewed the body at that time: "The eye-sockets
were large and deep, and the breadth across the
temples,togetherwith the forehead,appeared of unu-
sual size. There was no appearance of grave-clothes;
the chest was broad, the color was dark, and had the
appearanceof dried flesh and skin adhering closely to
the bones."5
f/MA/
.M, -.r/-s / /2
t/y.Mi/ jt o/ft .'/,i rt/y
;
p /iw/l W / The extensive accounts of Lear and Lossing were
not published until later in the nineteenth century,
Fig. 2. G. Washington in his last Illness attended by Docrs. butcontemporarynewspaperarticlesprovidedenough
Craik and Brown. Published by Pember and Luzarder, informationfor any artistwho wished to depict Wash-
Philadelphia, 1800. Etching tinted with watercolor; H. 11 ington'sdeathbed scene.His attending physicians had
1/2", W. 9 3/8". (Winterthur 59.46.2.)
prepareda signed statementdescribingthe president's
last hours in technical detail, and their account was
publishedin theAlexandria (Virginia) Times,December
Craik and Gustavus Brown (Fig. 2). The verse below 19, 1799.6
stated that Washington "now is departing unto the Barralet,however,did not concern himself with any
realms above," but the artist was satisfied to represent factual aspects of Washington's death. He had a
an emaciated Washington on his deathbed. A mourn-
knowledge of European allegorical and traditional
ing handkerchief carried a similar scene accompanied religiousrepresentationsthat he meant to put to use in
by a brief description of Washington's death. The America, and there were many Americans in the
president, after a short illness of thirty hours, had died nineteenthcentury who were attracted to his interpre-
"in the full Possession of all his Fame, like a Christian tation of the subject.
and an Hero, calm and collected, without a groan and
John James Barralet, an Irishman of French
without a sigh."3
Tobias Lear, Washington's Harvard-educated sec-
retary, left a detailed account of the late president's Tobias Lear, Last Wordsof GeneralWashington(Philadelphia,
death and burial. According to Lear, Washington 1892); pp. 1-4.
went outside on a cold, wet December afternoon, 5Benson J. Lossing as quoted in Chester Hale Sipe, Mount
Vernon andthe Washington Family(Butler, Pa.: Ziegler Printing Co.,
caught cold, and the next morning complained of a 1925), pp. 81-85.
6The report begins: "Some time in the night of Friday, the
3 Charles Henry Hart, Catalogue of the EngravedPortraitsof Wash- 13th inst., having been exposed to rain on the preceding day, Gen-
ington(New York: Grolier Club, 1904), no. 644A. The inscrip- eral Washington was attacked with an inflammatory affection of
tion below the engravingreads:"Americans behold & shed a grate- the upper part of the windpipe, called in technical language,
ful Tear / Fora man who has gained yor freedom most dear / And cynanche trachealis. The disease commenced with a violent ague,
now is departing unto the realms above / Where he may ever accompanied with some pain in the upper and fore part of the
rest in lasting peace & love." One copy of the cotton kerchief throat,a sense of stricture in the same part, a cough, and a difficult
that was printed in Glasgow in 1800 is in the Print Room of the rather than painful deglutition, which were soon succeeded
New York Public Library. The somewhat lengthy and laudatory by fever and a quick and laborious respiration"(Douglas Southall
text, which encircles the death scene, describes Washington's ac- Freeman, GeorgeWashington, 7 vols. [New York: Charles Scribner's
complishments as well as his last illness. Sons, 1957] 7:640-41).
118 Winterthur
Portfolio12

descent, studied under James Mannin in the Dublin artists has made him a kind of American Vasari,
Society's school and later taught art in Dublin. By describesBarralet at work. Drawing his information
1770 he had moved to London and begun teaching. from other engraverswho had known Barralet, Dun-
Between 1770 and 1776 he exhibited drawings whose lap characterizedhim as "having all the volatility of
subjectswere drawn from the common stock of neo- Franceunited with Hibernian prodigality and eccen-
classical themes at the Royal Academy. Returning to tricity. He was a man of talent without discretion or
Ireland as temporary master in the school during any thing like common prudence; prodigally gener-
James Mannin's illness, he failed to receive a perma- ous and graspingly poor." From what Dunlap could
nent appointment when Mannin died, but he gather, Barralet had been considered an artist of
remainedin Ireland for the next fifteen years. In 1795 promise in Ireland. As he grew older, Barralet took
Barraletimmigrated to Philadelphia, where he spent large quantities of snuff while working and was
his last twenty years.There he became involved in the known to be irascible. At one point the beleaguered
activities of the Philadelphia emigre community. artist requested the French general Jean Victor
Barraletand artistDenis A. Volozan were elected pro- Moreau to sit for his portrait.The general agreed and
fessorsof the recently founded Society of Artists of the during his sitting Barralet was interrupted by cries
United Statesin 1812. The antique classeswere placed and sobs coming from a closet. He had locked up his
under his direction.7 own children to keep them out of the way of his sitter.
During his years in America, Barralet illustrated He opened the door to ask his little "torments"what
books,engravedcommercial formssuch as trade cards they wanted. "Bread!" they cried. He complied and
and stockshares,and designed large single engravings locked them up again.9 Interestingly, this Irishman
for sale. His work covered a wide range of subjects, who appeared to his contemporaries so eccentric in
selected with an American audience in mind. One his personal behavior did not break with established
drawing, the First Landingof Columbus, won Barralet artistic conventions. Rather, he insisted upon them.
acclaim when it was exhibited at the Pennsylvania This insistence is particularly apparent in his por-
Academy. But in America he seems to have been just trayals of George Washington.
successfulenough in attracting purchasersto maintain In the last part of his careerBarraletoften turned to
himself. Nevertheless, although he was sometimes Washingtonas a subject. It was then a common prac-
short of firewood, clothing, and food for his two tice for engraversto copy portraitsof prominent men
motherlesschildren, he perseveredas an artist to the done by other artists, and Barralet was no exception.
end.8 But he embellished the Washington portraits with
William Dunlap, whose important early account of decorationsdrawn from the vocabulary of forms he
had learned in Europe. In one Washington portrait
7 Walter George Strickland, A Dictionary of Irish Artists, 2 vols.
based on a miniature by Walter Robertson, Barralet's
(New York: Hacker Art Books, 1968), 1: 25-27, lists the subjects decorationsconsistedof standard classical devices like
exhibited at the Royal Academy as A Storm,Sunset,Ruins, 1770;
two classicalsubjects and "two views of Garrick'sHouse," 1771; a a laurel wreath, an eagle, a liberty cap balanced on
full-length drawing of a gentleman and two classical subjects, the point of a sword,flags, and palm branches (Fig. 3).
1772;A ManagedHorse,1773; a woman bathing, and "two subjects Another Washington engraving after a painting by
from Beaumont and Fletcher," 1776. Barralet also "drew land-
Gilbert Stuart was decorated with a knight's
scapes in Italian chalk" in the manner of Vernet and set up two
drawingacademies, one in James's Street, Golden Square, and the helmet, sword, and baton. To an engraving after a
otherat 24 St. Alban's Street, Pall Mall, during his stay in London. miniature by John Ramage he added Liberty. She
After Barraletreturned to Ireland, he also produced book illustra- sits between an eagle and a cornucopia and holds her
tions and painted scenery for a local theater. David Sellin, "Denis
A. Volozan, Philadelphia Neoclassicist," Winterthur
cap aloft upon the tip of her sword.1?
Portfolio4, ed.
Richard K. Doud (Winterthur, Del.: Henry Francis du Pont
representation of Peter Francisco's action with the Tarleton
Winterthur Museum, 1965), pp. 121-23. A wash drawing in the
cavalry in Virginia in 1781. There are two engraved portraits of
collection of the Metropolitan Museum (61.672) titled Wisdom
Washington,six views of Centre Square, and one of Market Street,
and TruthleadingtheInfantArts to Americaand signed J. J. Barralet
Philadelphia. In addition there are an advertising design, design
may have been designed for use by the Society of Artists. for a trade card, and engraved certificates for shares of stock in
8 The
largest holding of Barralet's work in America that I was the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Welsh Society,
able to discover is in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Hibernian Society.
and consists of engravings after Barralet's designs. There are six 9William Dunlap, A Historyof the Rise and
Progressof The Arts
historical and allegorical works: Americaguidedby Wisdom,an alle- of Designin the UnitedStates,3 vols. (1834; reprint ed., New York:
of the UnitedStates;Apotheosisof Washington,He
goricalrepresentation Dover Publications, 1969), 2, pt. 1: 42-45.
spoke,and it again thundered.. .; Thefirst landingof Columbusin the 0
Hart, Portraitsof Washington,no. 249: Inscribed "Jon. Jas.
new world; Launchof the steam Frigate Fulton the First; and a Barralet-Invenit1795. / Painted by W. Robertson.-Engrav'd by
John James Barralet and the Apotheosis of GeorgeWashington 119

Fig. 3. John James Barralet, after Walter Robertson


GeorgeWashington, Presidentof the UnitedStates. Published
by RobertField, Philadelphia and New York, Aug. 1, 1795.
Stipple engraving; H. 7 9/16", W. 9 1/16." (Metropolitan
Museum of Art, bequest of Charles Allen Munn, 1924.)

General Washington's resignation provided Bar- GEIfERL WAS


r-ING O .A
GENERAL WAS3HINGT ON S
ralet another opportunity for embellishment. His
version of the event, designed in 1799, offers viewers a RE SIGAT IO N.
glimpse of Washington meeting with the goddess of
peace (Fig. 4). Washington stands on high steps near Fig. 4. Alexander Lawson after John James Barralet,
the goddess and her burning altar with Mount Vernon GeneralWashington'sResignation.Published by B. Davies,
and a partially plowed field in the distance. At his feet Philadelphia, Feb. 1, 1799. From Philadelphia Monthly
Magazine,Jan. 1799. Engraving; H. 7", W. 3 15/16".
are the discarded plumed helmet, sword, and baton of
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, bequest of Charles Allen
a knight. The goddess holds his written resignation in Munn, 1924.)
her hand. Eagle, shield, and cornucopia, symbols of
the new nation and its prosperity, fill the bottom
doubtedly referred to that most widely circulated of
ground. The composition at once paired the actions of
all handbooks of iconographical imagery, Cesare
Washington with those of the selfless Roman patriot
Cincinnatus. 1 Ripa's Iconologia.The Iconologiawas first published at
the end of the sixteenth century when it was widely
For the many allegorical devices Barralet un-
believed that painting, like poetry, should convey
complicated meanings. Drawing upon sources as
R Field. / GeorgeWashington, / President of the United States. / diverse as ancient sculpture and medals, the writings
Published by Walter Robertson, Philadelphia & New York 1st. of ancient Greek and Roman authors, church fathers,
August 1795"; no. 409: inscribed "G. Washington / Barralet
Direxit.-Lawson sc / Publish'd by R. Campbell and Co / From
a Copy Painted by J. Paul"; no. 212: inscribed "J. J. Baralet Published by B. Davies Philada 1st Feby 1799."Cincinnatus was
del.-H. Houston sculpt / General-Washington, / President of a retired Roman Consul who in 458 B.C. at the urging of
the-United States of / America." his countrymen, led the Romans against enemies then threatening
n no. 776: inscribed "Barralet Invt their city. The Romans were victorious. Cincinnatus then resigned
Hart, Portraitsof Washington,
&Direxit-LawsonSculp / GeneralWashington's / Resignation. / his dictatorship and retired to his home and fields.
120 WinterthurPortfolio 12

Fig. 5. Peace. From George Richardson, Iconology;or, A Fig. 6. Patriotism.From George Richardson, Iconology;or,
Collection of Emblematical Figures . . ., 2 vols. (London: A Collection of Emblematical Figures . . ., 2 vols. (London:
G. Scott, 1779), 2: pl. 64, fig. 245, opp. p. 30. (Winterthur G. Scott, 1779), 2: pl. 73, fig. 281, opp. p. 52. (Winterthur
Museum Libraries.) Museum Libraries.)

and contemporary scholars who were attempting to in her left arm speaks for the advantages of peace.
decode hieroglyphics, Ripa systematized for genera- Barralet rearranged these devices. The cornucopia is
tions of artists the way in which an image could placed at the bottom of the steps and is protected by
represent an idea. 1 the eagle; the fire is confined to a brazier. In Barralet's
After the publication of the Iconologia artists who composition Washington himself is allegorized. Wash-
chose to use allegorical figures had a common source. ington, a personification of Love of Country (Fig. 6),
Most artists, including Barralet, modified the source is placed in proximity to the weapons and a burning
but not so much that the figures could not be traced brazier as Ripa had suggested.
back to their common ancestor. Ripa had explained Barralet's GeneralWashington'sResignationduplicates
that Peace should be shown burning weapons because in some details a tableau worked out by Charles
that is how she appeared on Roman coins during the Willson Peale for the city of Philadelphia. When, in
Pax Romana. In the IconologiaPeace puts her torch to November of 1783, the city fathers wanted to celebrate
the weapons and garb of war (Fig. 5). The cornucopia the occasion of Washington's resignation of his
military commission and the peace treaty with
Britain, they commissioned Peale to construct a tri-
2Emile Male discusses the importance and influence of the
umphal arch. On one pedestal of the arch Peale depic-
Iconologia"Les Survivances du Passe Persistance de L'Esprit
du XVI Siecle. L'Allegorie,"L'ArtReligieuxapesle Concilede Trente ted Washington as Cincinnatus crowned with laurel
(Paris:LibrairieArmand Colin, 1932), pp. 383-428. See also E. H. returning to a laurel-wreathed plough. To strengthen
Gombrich,"IconesSymbolicae,"Symbolic Images(London: Phaidon the identification with Republican Rome, Peale
Press, 1972), pp. 123-91. For a discussion of the Italian, German,
placed the letters S P Q P-Senatus PopulusquePennsyl-
French,English,and Spanish editions of the Iconologia,see Edward
vanius-over the spandrel of the central arch. In the
A. Maser'sintroduction to the Hertel edition reprinted as Baroque
andRococoPictorialImagery(1758-60; reprint ed., New York: Dover spectacle planned for the celebration, a gigantic figure
Publications, 1971), pp. viii-xi. of Peace, bearing a torch, was to appear above the
John James Barralet and the Apotheosis of GeorgeWashington 121

Fig. 7. Benjamin Tanner after John James Barralet, America Guided by Wisdom. Philadelphia, 1820. Engraving;
H. 17 1/4", W. 23 1/2". (Winterthur 58.23.1.)

arch. At her signal a burst of rockets was to be fired Barralet applied allegorical depictions to represen-
into the sky. Unfortunately a prematurely fired rocket tations of other American subjects besides Washing-
set the whole arch, which was made of paper and cloth ton. In a late engraving entitled America Guided by
that were oiled and varnished, aflame. Barralet, Wisdom:an allegorical representationof the United States
restaging the resignation for his composition in 1799, denotingtheirIndependence andProsperity,he seemed deter-
conceived a different scenario. He relegated the fire to mined to impress upon his American audience the
a brazier and, cognizant of the still-popular belief that wisdom of Horace's maxim sapere est principiumetfons
Washington was an American Cincinnatus, he placed (Fig. 7). Dividing his composition into "fore ground,"
a yoked oxen team and plough on the fields in front of "second ground," and "third ground," he explained
Mount Vernon.13 each in an elaborate gloss. In the foreground Minerva,
13For a full description of this tableau, see Charles Coleman the goddess of wisdom, stands next to the seated
Sellers, The Artist of the Revolution:The Early Life of Charles America, who holds a shield bearing the arms of the
WillsonPeale(Hebron, Conn.: Feather & Good, 1939), pp. 226-31. United States. At the feet of America is a cornucopia
Hart observes:"Ttis print is said to be from a painting by Charles
WillsonPeale, exhibited at an entertainment given to Washington,
filled to overflowing with indigenous produce. The
by the citizens of Philadelphia, upon his retirement from the message is clear: the genius of an independent America
Presidency,March 4th, 1797,"Portraitsof Washington, no. 776). The guided by Wisdom will bring the nation to prosperity.
engravingseems to relate rather to Peale's entertainment of 1783 Descended as he was from a European tradition
and is entitled GeneralWashington'sResignation.There is no way that conceived of the artist as a learned man, Barralet
of establishingwhether Barralet'scomposition is after a painting by
Peale. However, this is the kind of allegorical representation
was sympathetic to the promotion of the liberal arts in
Barraletexcelled in, and the knight's helmet and cornucopia are America. He allotted space in the middle ground for
examples of the kind of devices he often used. its depiction. The placement of an equestrian statue of
122 WintrtthurPortfolio 12

Fig. 8. John James Barralet, ScienceUnveilingbeautiesof Natureto the Geniusof America.Probably Philadelphia, 1814. Wash
drawing; H. 11", W. 16 1/2". (Prints Division, New York Public Library.)

Washington in front of the triumphal arch, he


informed the viewer, illustrated the progress of the
liberal arts. However well-intented Barralet's mes-
sage, without the text the meaning is ambiguous. A
cursory glance at the design could leave the impression
that Barralet was celebrating Washington's military
victories rather than the peacetime artistic pursuits of
a civilized nation. By comparison, the meaning of the
background is almost self-evident. Its design reinforces
the concept that in the wisely guided nation commer-
cial and agricultural manufacturers will thrive.
Mercury, personifying Commerce, rests one foot on
manufactured goods and gestures toward ships in the
harbor, which represent the advantages of trade and
navigation. Behind Ceres, the goddess of agriculture,
are a beehive and a woman at a spinning wheel,
both emblematic of domestic industry.
This kind of explicit analysis from the artist would
be welcomed in the case of an untitled allegorical
work of 1814. The assembled figures in the tinted
drawing (Fig. 8) can be deciphered, however, with the
Fig. 9. Nature.From George Richardson, Iconology;or, A aid of Ripa and a catalog entry of the Pennsylvania
Collection of Emblematical Figures . . ., 2 vols. (London:
G. Scott, 1779), 2: pl. 53, opp. p. 5. (Winterthur Museum Academy of Fine Arts. A four-breated goddess holds
Libraries.) the center of the composition. She is approached by a
John James Barralet and the Apotheosis of George Washington 123

winged goddesswho lifts her veil. To the left Barralet the matter: "from the jargon of far-fetched and over
placed the plumed goddess who personified America refined allegory what must be said then of Ripa and
in AmericaGuidedby Wisdom.He equipped her with others who have been at the pains of raking together
Minerva'sspear and positioned the rampant eagle at all this offal of the imagination."16
her side. Surroundingher is a collection of indigenous But in America artists faced the very immediate
flora and fauna. Behind this assembly, the arc of problem of devising a rhetorical language through
Niagara Falls acts as Nature's backdrop. The winged imageryto proclaim the new heroesof the Revolution.
goddesscharacterizesScience. Ripa had ordained that When allegorycould suggest,by effecting a thorough-
Science be representedby a woman with wings on her going transformation, that antique precedent and
head because the intellect must be elevated to its contemporary incident were as one, then it was wel-
study. Barraletchose to place the wings on her back comed by artists.In his generation Barralet was unu-
instead.Ripa also had suggesteda multibreastedherm sual for the number of allegorical compositions he
to representNature, the source of all life (Fig. 9), but designed, but he was not the only artist to design
Barralet limited Nature to four breasts. He selected them. '1
from the Iconologiathe feminine personifications of The climate in America could hardly have been
Science and Nature and added three small children, more propitious for commemorating Washington's
an Indian mother, and her papoose to offer death in antique guise using allegorical figures.When
up a paean to female fecundity with American allu- Barraletdesigned his engraving, he chose the form of
sions under the allegorical title Scienceunveilingthe the apotheosis in which a great man ascends Mount
beautiesof natureto the Geniusof America.14 Olympus to join the pantheon of Greek gods and
Barralet'senthusiastic use of Ripa's Iconologiawas heroes.To complete his composition, Barraletselected
not unusual for a European-trained artist. The sub- allegorical figures with established iconographical
scriptionlist for the first English edition, published in pedigrees:Liberty, Father Time, Immortality, Faith,
1779, had included Sir Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin Hope, Charity, and the American Indian.
West, Paul Sandby, Edward Penny, and Antonio Liberty and Father Time had roots deep in Euro-
Zucchi. Surely Mannin, Barralet's teacher in the pean culture. Liberty had been used on the coins and
Dublin Society's school, was familiar with the Icono- medals of the Roman Empire. Ripa, ever ready with
logia. Even Dublin's stuccodores applied Ripa's advice for the artists of his time, had suggested that
imagery to the plaster decoration of Dublin's ceil- Libertyhold a brokenyoke and be accompanied by a
ings.15 cat (Fig. 10). A cat, he pointed out, was appropriate
After the middle of the eighteenth century, how- becauseno other animal loved freedom so much. Most
ever, some Europeans had begun questioning the artists,however,ignored Ripa; Barraletwas no excep-
validity of conveying complex meanings by the use of tion. Barralet'sLiberty merely has the rudisand pileus,
Ripa'sallegoricalgarnish. No less preeminent a figure the rod of touch and cap of announcement connected
than the critic Johann Winckelmann signaled his with ancient forms of freeing a slave. Twenty years
exasperation:"I am surethat if he [Ripa] had thought earlierAugustinDupre had depicted Liberty similarly
of the Italian adage pisciarenel vaglioto mean waste on his greatly admired LibertasAmericanamedal.'8
of time and labor, he would have expressed even this
pretty thought through figures." James Barry, a
historypainterwho, like Barralet,left Ireland to follow
16
Mario Praz, "FrancescoPianta's Bizarre Carvings," in Essays
his profession,had a more emphatic way of expressing in the Historyof Art Presentedto Rudolf Wittkower,ed. Douglas
Fraser, Howard Hibbard, Milton J. Lewine, 2 vols. (London:
'4Anna Wells Rutledge, ed., CumulativeRecordof Exhibition Phaidon Press, 1967), 2: 221; C. P. Curran, "Cesare Ripa," p. 248.
Catalogues,The PennsylvaniaAcademyof the Fine Arts, 1807-1870 17 See Stauffer,American
Engravers, s.v. "David Edwin," "William
(Philadelphia:American Philosophical Society, 1955), no. 242; the Rollinson," "Benjamin Tanner," "Alexander Lawson," "John
year before, 1813,Barralethad exhibited another related work, the Norman," and "Edwin Savage." Charles Willson Peale also
Genius of America (no. 39, tinted drawing). E. McClung Fleming designed some allegorical compositions. See Charles Coleman
discussesBarralet'splumed Greek goddess in "From Indian Prin- Sellers,"CharlesWillson Peale with Patron and Populace, A Sup-
cess to Greek Goddess, the American Image, 1783-1815," plement to Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale,"
Winterthur Portfolio3, ed. Milo M. Naeve (Winterthur, Del.: Henry Transactionsof theAmericanPhilosophicalSociety,vol. 59, pt. 3 (May
Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1967), p. 50. 1969): S5, S57, S69.
5Ann Hope, "Cesare Ripa's Iconology and the Neoclassical 18The
Dupre medal is discussed by Cornelius Vermeule, Numis-
Movement," Supplement of the ApolloMagazine(Oct. 1967): 1-2; maticArt in America:Aestheticsof the UnitedStates Coinage(Cam-
C. P. Curran, "Cesare Ripa and the Dublin Stuccodores," Studies, bridge:HarvardUniversity Press, 1971), pp. 9-10, and E. McClung
An Irish Quarterly Review28, no. 110 (June 1939): 237-48. Fleming, "From Indian Princess to Greek Goddess," pp. 56-57.
124 Winterthur
Portfolio12

the voyage of Columbus. Until then the three Magi


had signified the continents of Europe, Asia, and
Africa.The discoveryof a fourth continent, however,
had dealt a fatal blow to the theological symbolism.20
Afterthat, in pageants,triumphal parades, maps, and
the Iconologia,"the Four Continents" came to be per-
sonified by differentfigures believed to be representa-
tive of the original inhabitants. It seemed natural for
an Indian to representAmerica. A typical European
rendering, in the English edition of the Iconologia,
shows America's Indian as a figure with the propor-
tions of Venus and the bow and arrow of Cupid (Fig.
1).21 After the creation of the United States, native
Americanswere personified in other ways. Barralet's
figure is a sinewy male whose moccasins, tomahawk,
quiver, headdress, and braided hair all speak for
Barralet'scareful observation of the North American
Indian.
Many of Barralet'spersonificationshad classical or
religiousantecedents. But eighteenth-century Ameri-
can heroes presented special problems, and with
George Washington in particular Barralet was faced
with the task of forging a new iconography.
The two medals displayed on the side of the tomb are
Fig. 10. Liberty. From George Richardson, Iconology;
or,A Collection
of Emblematical
Figures. . ., 2 vols. (London: the only objectswith symbolic meaning referringspe-
G. Scott,1779),2: pl. 74, fig. 285, opp. p. 54. (Winterthur cifically to Washington'slife on earth. They occupy a
MuseumLibraries.)
pocket of space near the center of the composition.
One is the emblem of the Freemasons,the compass and
FatherTime was a composite figure based upon repre- square rule framing an irradiating sun. Washington
sentationsof Time (Kairos)and Saturn (Kronos)as well belonged to the order of the Freemasons, and they
as Renaissanceillustrationsof the Triumph of Time in were among those officiating at his burial. The other
Petrarch'sTrionfi.The figure of Father Time (Tempus) medal is the badge of the Society of Cincinnati, a
underwentmany transformationsover the centuries, short-livedcontroversialorganization of officers who
as Ripa was carefulto note. Barralet favored a version had served in the Continental army (Fig. 12). Of a
that is recognizable to this day, a bearded old man more general symbolic nature is the knight's armor,
with scythe and hourglass.'9 placed at the base of the tomb, which indicates that
Faith, Hope, and Charity had been depicted as the Washington had laid down his military role.
Christian theological virtues from the ninth century One other entity, the new American republic, re-
on. In Ripa, Faith is represented with cross, chalice, quired furthersymbolic representation,and Barralet
and host; Hope looks heavenward and stands near an employedrattlesnakes,fasces,eagle, and shield for this
anchor; Charity suckles babes. Barralet modified his purpose.In late eighteenth-centurypolitical cartoons,
representationof Faith, giving her a cross to lean on
but not the equally traditional chalice and host. His 2 Louis Reau,
Iconographiede L'Art Chretien,3 vols. (Paris:
Hope looks up to Heaven but has no anchor. Only Presses Universitaires de France, 1955-59), 2: 237-38.
Charity remains unchanged. " The
personification for the New World is discussed by
An AmericanIndian became the standardized per- Claire Le Corbeiller, "Miss America and her Sisters: Personifica-
sonification for the western hemisphere shortly after tions of the Four Parts of the World," MetropolitanMuseumof Art
Bulletin 19, no. 8 (Apr. 1961): 210-11, and by E. McClung
Fleming, "The American Image as Indian Princess, 1765-1783,"
WinterthurPortfolio2, ed. Milo M. Naeve (Winterthur, Del.:
9 Erwin Panofsky observes in Studiesin Iconology(1939; reprint Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1965), pp. 66-71.
ed., New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 71 that Father Fleming distinguishes between the Indian Queen, who personifies
Time managed to withstand the wholesale elimination of human- the western hemisphere, and the Indian Princess, who represents
istic subject matter from art during the late nineteenth century. the American colonies. Occasionally the Indian is male.
John James Barralet and the Apotheosis of George Washington 125

the rattlesnakeoften representedthe rebelliousAmeri-


can colonies.As they began their struggle for indepen-
dence, the fasces came to symbolize their unity in a
lawful common effort. By 1782 the American eagle
and the figure of Liberty were adopted to decorate
the first American coins.22
The devices were prudent additions because they
reminded Americans that recent events were being
memorialized in concrete artistic form. However,
forging a new iconography required more than in-
cludingobjectsthat tacitly referredto Washington and
the new republic,and more than placing Washington
in a positionfromwhich he could bask in the afterglow
of the allegoricalmeaning of other figures. It required
conveying a sense of the dramatic importance of the
moment at hand. Barralet took up the challenge and
arrangedhis figuresto indicate that some great action
was takingplace. If we may measure Barralet'ssuccess
by the number of actions he indicates simultaneously,
we mayjudge him most successful-for he manages to
suggest that Washington is participating in an apo-
theosis, a resurrectionand an assumption.
From an early period scenes in Christian art, like a
familiar drama, had been played over with the same
characters and the same props. The Resurrection Fig. 11. America.From George Richardson, Iconology;or, A
invariably came to include soldiers in a staged sleep, Collection of Emblematical Figures . . ., 2 vols. (London:
before the sarcophagus, and Christ, a miraculous G. Scott, 1779). 1: pl. 16, fig. 60, opp. p. 30. (Winterthur
Museum Libraries.)
figure in a winding sheet, rising up from it. Barralet
appropriatedcertain poses and props from this tradi-
tional scenefor his own composition. He posed Liberty
and the Indian like the sleeping soldiers. They guard
a free-standingtomb that resembles a sarcophagus,
more than the coffin prepared to Washington's mea-
surements. But unlike the standard Resurrection
sarcophagus,Washington's, as if in expectation of a
longerstay, is inscribed"SACRED to the Memory of /
WASHINGTON / OB 14 Dec A) 1799 / At t 68.23
Anotherdifferenceis even more important. Although
Washington is robed like Christ, he does not share
Christ'smiraculouspowersat the Resurrection.Wash-
ington requiresassistancein his ascent. For this reason
Barralet'sWashington parallels the Baroque depic-

"Vermeule, NumismaticArt in America,pp. 10-13. Note that


Barralet placed sixteen stars on the shield (Fig. 1), one for each
state in the union in 1802.
23Washington's actual coffin was inscribed "[at the head]
SURGE AD JUDICIUM [about the middle] GLORIA DEO
[and on a small silver plate shaped like the American shield]
GEORGE WASHINGTON / Born Feb. 22, 1732. / Died Decem-
ber 14, 1799." See Recollections
and PrivateMemoirsof Washingtonby Fig. 12. Emblem of the Order of the Cincinnati. Detail
his AdoptedSonGeorgeWashington ParkeCustis(New York: Derby & of painted decoration on lid of a porcelain soup tureen.
Jackson, 1860), p. 477. (Winterthur 63.700.62.)
126 Winterthur
Portfolio12

tions of the Virgin who, in her Assumption, is lifted


heavenward by an angelic host.
The way in which Barraletarranged the figures for
the ascent resemblesTheAssumption of the Virgin(1697)
by Allesandro Gherardini (Fig. 13). Barralet pre-
sumably had no opportunity to see this work,although
during his lifetime baroque paintings were enjoying
wide recirculationthrough reproductive engravings.
Consequently, he could have seen representations of
the Assumption similar to Gherardini's.
What Barralethad constructed was a reenactment
of the antique rite of deification upon a Christian
scaffolding.He was not alone in his efforts.Other con-
temporary artists also conjoined the Christian and
classical traditions in single images as they sought to
dignify moder events by means of these sanctified
traditions.24Furthermore, this approach to an apo-
theosiswas not new. Over severalcenturies apotheosis
had evolved as a form to celebrate important secular
leaders almost as though they were holy figures.
Originally, in antique art an apotheosis depicted a
mythical hero like Hercules or a preeminent man
being conveyed into the company of the gods. With
the extensive revival of pagan iconography in the
Renaissance,apotheosis was again favored, this time Fig. 13. Allessandro Gherardini, The Assumptionof the Virgin.
Italy, 1697. Oil on canvas; H. 93", W. 70". (Conservatorio
to honorpreeminentChristians.After that, it was only di S. Niccolo, Prato: Photo, courtesy Azienda Autonoma di
a matter of time before logic dictated that men whose Turismo di Prato.)
destination was the heavens should be depicted in
scenes covering the great vaulted ceilings created by heaven like Mount Olympus. Appended to the
baroque architects.And at this juncture the profane bottom of Gribelin's engraving was an explanation
crossed over into sacred territory. Were it not for
implying that the king might be entitled to a place in
halos, it would be difficult to distinguish in these ba- both locations because of his triumphs on earth.
roque ceilingsbetween the holy figures in heaven and
Quite possibly Barralet was familiar with Gribelin's
the mortalsjoiningthe company of the gods on Mount
engraving as well as other European precedents for
Olympusas a rewardfor exemplary service.The same the depiction of an apotheosis. Barralet and other ar-
problem is apparent in many panel paintings. tists at the end of the eighteenth century made one
The most renowned apotheosis of the baroque furthersignificant contribution to the evolution of an
period in England was Rubens's ApotheosisofJamesI, apotheosis: they democratized it.
one panel painted for the ceiling of the Great Hall at Democratization of the post-antique apotheosis
Whitehall. This ceiling became widely known after occurredin the popular medium of engraving. These
1720 when Simon Gribelin issued his reproductive
engravings (which were not engravings after paint-
engraving.5 In design it follows the baroque ten- ings) featured protagonists who were heroes of the
dency to make Mount Olympus look like heaven, or common people. One of the best known was Jean-
Honore Fragonard's print which, in an apotheosis,
4The best-known example of a work that combines Christian
celebrated the achievements of Benjamin Franklin
and classical traditions in the service of modern history is David's (Fig. 14). Fragonard conceived the design during
DeathofMarat.For a discussion of David's painting in this context, 1778, while Franklinwas negotiating with France for
see Robert Rosenblum, Transformations in LateEighteenthCenturyArt assistancein financing America'srevolution. The first
(1967; reprint ed., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), study was executed in sepia, then transposed as an
pp. 82-84.
25JuliusHeld, "Rubens's Glynde Sketch and the Installation etching by Marguerite Gerard, Fragonard'ssister-in-
of the Whitehall Ceiling," BurlingtonMagazine112, no. 806 (May law. She added an epigram written by the French
1970): 274-81. economist Turgot to honor Franklin: "ERIPUIT
JohnJamesBarraletandthe Apotheosisof GeorgeWashington 127

i
, /f

I- I I

1
l i \1

Se 1IL
I

.t,.i

Fig. 14. Marguerite Gerard after Jean-Honore Fragonard, Au Geniede Franklin["To the Genius of Franklin"]. Paris,
1778. Second state. Etching; H. 16 3/4", W. 14 11/16". (Winterthur 72.161.)
128 Winterthur
Portfolio12

COELO FULMEN, SCEPTRUMQUE TIRAN- moner like Franklin. There is an indication that
NIS / Au GENIE DE FRANKLIN." Louis XVI did not share in the general enthusiasm
Accordingto the description that accompanied the for the American statesman. He had "Eripuit Coelo
announcement of the publication of the print in the fulmen, SceptrumqueTyrannis" inscribed at the bot-
Journalde Paris, November 15, 1778, Franklin is in tom of a chamber pot ordered for his mistress, who
the company of Minerva and Mars. With the help of openly admired Franklin.2
Minerva's shield, acting as a conductor, Franklin As conceived by some French artists, an apotheosis
turnsaway lightning while Mars attacks Avarice and could be an honorific form and at the same time
Tyranny. America, holding a fasces, a symbol of the promote insurgent ideas. The same year in which
unitedcolonies,tranquillysitsbeside Franklin,her arm Fragonard executed his sepia study, Robert-
resting on his knee.6 Guillaume Dardel depicted an apotheosis of Voltaire.
Fragonard conceived the etching at one of those Becauseonly the year is given on the engraving, there
moments when events in art and life act upon each is no way of telling whether Dardel conceived his idea
other. Franklin enjoyed great popularity among the beforeor after Voltaire's death in 1778. Voltaire had
French, and was honored as an enemy of tyranny in been a controversialfigure throughout his life. In his
a country where increasing numbers of citizens per- eighty-fourthyear he enjoyed a great reception at the
ceived their own king as a tyrant. Presumably Louis Comedie Franqaise,where his bust was placed on the
XVI allowed the engraving to be issued because stage and crowned with laurel while the audience
Franklin opposed British tyranny. Nevertheless, cheered wildly. But when he died two months later,
Fragonard's tyranny is a generalized figure with a his embalmed body had to be propped up in a carriage
generalized crown.27 that left Paris because those close to him feared that
Turgot's succint epigram condensed the content of his body would be desecrated by his numerous politi-
five lines of French verse that he had written about cal enemies if it were buried in the city. Dardel's
Franklin.A translation of these lends more meaning Apotheose de Voltairereincarnates Voltaire as Apollo.
to the epigram: Voltaire, who had used the word lumierewhen he wrote
of enlightenment, appears as a mask that Apollo, the
Here is that mortalwhose happy industry
Chainedlightningand gave laws, sun god, holds in front of his own luminous face.
Whosereadywisdomand eloquentvoice No figure from classical mythology could better serve
Could freehis countryof a tyrant, as Voltaire's alter ego than Apollo.
Who unarmedthe gods, who put down Kings.28 There were other works depicting Voltaire and
Clearly the more tactful Latin epigram was appropri- Apollo triumphing together over Voltaire's enemies,
ate for wider distribution, because the verse suggests and Dardel drew upon this established iconog-
that the time-honored function of kings to maintain raphy.30He placed his Apollo-Voltaire on Pegasus,
order through law could be taken over by a com- the winged horse traditionally associated with the
literaryarts. Under Pegasus's hooves are Heresy and
2' The announcement of the publication of the print, together
Arrogance.Wearing a mural crown and a black robe,
a woman reaches imploringly toward the mounted
with the English translation, is reproduced in Charles Coleman
Sellers, BenjaminFranklinin Portraiture (New Haven: Yale Univer-
sity Press, 1962), pp. 286-89. More recently this etching has been
reproducedand discussed by Hugh Honour in TheEuropeanVision Jeanne Louise Henriette Campan, first lady-in-waiting to
of America(Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1975) no. 206. MarieAntoinette, observed:"The King never declared his opinion
n Sellers,BenjaminFranklinin Portraiture,
pp. 120-21, suggests that [about Turgot's epigram] upon an enthusiasm which his correct
this print received the nihil obstatbecause it was understood that judgment, no doubt, led him to blame: however, the Comtesse
Eripuitcoelofulmen,sceptrumque tyrannisidentified the British king and Diana having, to keep up her character as a woman of superior
ministry as the tyrants. This is a reasonable assumption since talent, entered with considerable warmth into the idolatry of the
the design was probably made early in 1778 when the Franco- Americandelegate, a jest was played off upon her, which was kept
Americanalliance was impending. However, it must be noted that secretenough, and may give us some idea of the private sentiments
the work itself is ambiguous. Nowhere is tyranny identified as of Louis XVI. He had a vase de nuit made at Sevres manu-
British, despite Seller's contention that "a warrior charges for- factory,at the bottom of which was the medallion with its fashion-
ward upon two falling figures symbolic of British tyranny." Nor able legend, and he sent the utensil to the Comtesse Diana as a
is the advertisementmorespecific than the engraving. Finally, there New Year's gift" (Campan, Memoirsof the PrivateLife of Marie
is no evidence that Turgot had British tyrants in mind when he Antoinette[New York: Tudor Publishing, 1934], p. 211).
penned the verse (in French) or the Latin epigram. ' Gustave Desnoiresterrescites
examples in which Voltaire is
Oeuvresde M. Turgot, 9 vols. (Paris: Delance, 1808-11), shown in combination with Apollo in "Essai D'Iconographie
9:140. Voltairienne," L'Art8 (1877): 173-75.
JohnJames BarraletandtheApotheosisof GeorgeWashington 129

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Fig. 15. Barincou Monbrun, L'Apotrede la LiberteImmortalise.Bordeaux, France, ca.


1791. Line engraving; H. 19", W. 23 1/2".(Prints Division, New York Public Library.)

rider. She is a Tyche and embodies a city or realm. ' to express a heretical idea. During this period
Between her and Pegasus, Dardel places a reference of increasingpolitical unrest under Louis XVI, it sug-
to La Henriade, a poem praising Henry of Navarre gests, the French people or all Europeans (depending
while condemning religious crimes and entrenched upon which the Tyche symbolizes) will be better
authority. Dardel dedicated the Apotheoseto Voltaire's served if Voltaire's ideas on enlightened leadership
longtime friend, Frederick the Great, who had unsuc- are assumed by Frederick the Great.
cessfully tried to defeat France in the Seven Years Another engraving on the subject of an apotheosis,
War. Not until four years after Voltaire's death was this one designed by Barincou Monbrun, was struckto
the design transferred and engraved.32 The meaning mourn the death of Franklin in 1790, just a few
of the engraving is ambiguous-perhaps deliberately months after the storming of the Bastille (Fig. 15).
so. Nevertheless, the allegory can be interpreted Entitled L'Ap6trede la LiberteImmortalise,Monbrun

31 Rubens had used a


black-garbed Tyche to represent Europe engraving is found in Gustave Desnoiresterres,Iconographie Voltair-
in his famous painting TheHorrorsof War,explaining: "That grief- ienne(Paris: LibraireAcademique, 1879), pp. 147-48. The inscrip-
strickenwoman clothed in black, with torn veil, robbed of all her tion reads: "Dardel Invenit et del. 1778. Le Grand Sculp. 1782.
jewels and other ornaments, is the unfortunate Europe who, for Apotheose de Voltaire / Dediee a sa Majeste le Roi de Prusse. A
so many years now, has suffered plunder, outrage, and misery, Paris chez Le Grand, Rue St. Jacques, vis-a-vis celle des
which are so injurious to everyone that it is unnecessary to go MathuriusNo. 41. Par ses tres humbles et tres obeissants serviteurs
into detail" (Ruth Saunders Magurn, ed. and trans., The Letters Dardel et Le Grand."Dardel's career is described briefly by Emile
of PeterPaulRubens[Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955], Bellier de la Chavignerie, "Dardel," RevueUniversalsdes Arts 19
p. 409). See also Gombrich, SymbolicImages,pp. 126-30. (1864): 365-67. The most complete listing of Augustin Legrand's
3To the best of my knowledge, very little has been written work is found in Roger Portalis et Henri Beraldi, Les Graveurs de
about this engraving,and it has not been published. There is a copy Dix-huitiemeSiecle,3 vols. (Paris: Damascene Morgaud et Charles
of it in the Bibliotheque Nationale. The fullest description of the Fatout, 1881), 2: 611-12.
130 WinterthurPortfolio 12

Time's musculature, the gentle embrace of Immor-


tality appears to be more effective in deciding
Franklin's ultimate destination. In the background
one of his own inventions, the lightning rod, protects
a cenotaph bearing the inscription "FRANKLIN NE
PEUT MOURIR," a sentiment appropriate to the
idea of apotheosis. France, personified by a woman,
and the spirit of philosophy mourn at the base of the
monument. In the upper regions the allegorical figure
of Fame blows her trumpet. To the left is Taurus, the
sign of the zodiac approaching at his death.
Monbrun deliberately honored a champion of liberty
revered by the French at the very time that they were
wresting liberty from the old regime.
In essence, what the French artists wished to cele-
brate in an apotheosis was not the man so much as the
political ideals he embodied. An apotheosis as it was
interpreted by America artists became, by contrast,
decidedly depoliticized.The AmericanartistBenjamin
West, who spent his most productive years in En-
gland, was, in part, instrumental in establishing this
alternative approach to an apotheosis. Sometime after
1783, when the British royal princes Alfred and Octa-
vius had died in quick succession of each other, their
bereaved parents, King George III and Queen Char-
lotte, commissioned West to portray them in a memo-
Fig. 16. Robert Strange after Benjamin West, Apotheosis rial portrait. West produced the Apotheosisof Princes
of PrincesOctaviusand Alfred. London, 1786. Engraving; OctaviusandAlfred,a work still in the royal collection.
H. 22 13/16",W. 16 15/16". (MetropolitanMuseumof In 1786 Robert Strange engraved a copy of the paint-
Art, gift of Miss Georgiana W. Sargent in memory of
John OsborneSargent,1924.) ing and appended this explanation: "The principal
figures are the portraits of the late Princes, Octavius
and Alfred, who, by an Angel, are presented to each
dedicated the allegorical engraving to the friends of
other" (Fig. 16).3 The dead princes, with Windsor
the French constitution and presented it to the
Castle below them, are in the company not only of a
National Assembly.33In the allegory Father Time
and Immortality play tug-of-war with Franklin while guardian angel but of two cherubim. If the work were
ignoring the imploring gesture of unfettered America Mondes est Retourne dans les Cieux. / Franklin, le grand franklin
(a plumed female Indian here). Despite Father Restaura Sa Patrie / le Francais admirant un Si Vaste genie / El
Malgre Ses tiraus la Mit eu liberte; L'empresse a l'elever a
33Eduoard Feret, Biographie,vol. 3 of the Statistiquegenerale... l'immortalite."
dudepartement de la Gironde
(Bordeaux: Feret et fils, 1874-89), p. 40. 34Franklin died on April 17, 1790. In the Iconologia Ripa sug-
Sydney George Fisher, The TrueBenjaminFranklin(Philadelphia: gests that the "circle of the zodiac" be placed in proximity to
Lippincott, 1900), p. 15. The inscription reads: "Allegorie FatherTime. An early instance of such an arrangement is the late
dediee aux amis de la Constitution Francaise par l'auteur, et fourth-centuryA.D. ivory panel with the apotheosis of an emperor,
presentee a l'Assemblee Nationale. Compose et execute par now found in the British Museum, which shows a section of the
BARINCOU MONBRUN Bdx pche 3me. Se trouve ches l'auteur zodiac arranged in the upper right-hand corner. See Enrst Kit-
quai du pont St. Jean Bordx no. 249." The text underneath the zinger, EarlyMedievalArt(1940; reprint ed., Bloomington: Indiana
engravingreads:"Lamort se faisit Du divin Franklin; L'amerique University Press, 1968), pl. 6, pp. 13, 100.
au Milieu de / Ses Fers Brisess'efforcedele Retenir au pres D'elle, 35Sir Robert Strange, A Collectionof HistoricalPrints(n.p., n.d.),
L'immortalitel'arrache/ Au Neant, pour le Remettre au Sein de pl. 45 and p. 18; Charles Le Blanc, Cataloguede L'Oeuvrede Robert
la Divinite; dans le lointain Parait un Monument a sa gloire; StrangeGraveur (Leipsic: Rudolphe Weigel, 1848), pp. 52-53. The
un Paratonerre y est place, la foudre vient / S'y arreter pour engravingexists in four states. The inscription in the border of the
Randre hommage a la Memoire de Celui qui SSuten Preserv6r/ fourth state reads: "Benjs. West, Pinxit e Robus Strange Delint.
L'humanite; la france et le genie de La philosophie donnent des et sculp Londini 1786.Ah! si quaFata aspera!"Alfred died in 1782,
larmes au Plus grand / Des Mortels, l'arenommee un Crepe au age 12, and Octavius in 1783, age 3. According to Le Blanc, the
Bras Vole instruire lunivers, que / le Dieu bienfaisant des deux castle in the lower background is Windsor Castle.
John James Barralet and the Apotheosis of George Washington 131

Fig. 18. David Edwin after R[embrandt?] Peale, Apotheosis


of Washington.Published by S. Kennedy, Philadelphia,
ca. 1803-1808. Stipple engraving; H. 21", W. 14 1/4".
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of William H.
(A
HP
F.10S)I': (A ,S il itT )
,,,..-" Huntington, 1883.)

As a pupil of West's briefly during 1803, Rem-


Fig. 17. Loveof Virtue.From George Richardson, Iconology; brandt Peale could have become familiar with his
or, A Collectionof Emblematical Figures . . ., 2 vols. (London: teacher's Apotheosisof PrincesOctaviusandA Ifred.Having
G. Scott, 1779), 2: pl. 73, fig. 282, opp. p. 52. (Winterthur
Museum Libraries.) returned to America in time for Philadelphia's cele-
bration of the Louisiana Purchase on May 12, 1804,
not described as an apotheosis, we could believe the RembrandtPeale contributed to the festivities.At the
Peale Museum that evening his transparency of the
boys to be in the vicinity of heaven. West's apotheosis
displays commemorative, even Christian funereal apotheosisof George Washington was illuminated in
connotations, and is closer to some baroque antece-
the great window by the stair. The transparency is
dents than the work of his French contemporaries. lost, but quite probably this same transparency was
Rembrandt Peale, in his turn, relied upon West's the one transferredfor engraving by David Edwin
compositional arrangement when he designed an (Fig. 18).37
apotheosis of Washington for display as a trans-
parency. George Washington takes the place similar
to that held- by princes upon the clouds halfway corer of 4th Philadelphia-Engrav'd by Edwin. / APOTHEOSIS
between his family estate and his ultimate destination. OF WASHINGTON." Sellers,"CharlesWillson Peale with Patron
The figure about to crown him with a laurel wreath and Populace," S82, p. 33, identifies the two figures in the
resembles Ripa's Love of Virtue (Fig. 17). Two engraving as Martha Washington, who died in 1802, and John
Parke Custis. He also suggests that a life-size transparency of
mortals are substituted for West's cherubic witnes-
George Washington created by Charles Willson Peale in 1800 to
ses.36 celebrate the late president's birthday might have been an apoth-
eosis, but he can offer no proof.
36Hart, Portraitsof Washington,no. 702: inscribed "Painted by 7Charles Coleman
Sellers, Charles Willson Peale (New York:
R. Peal.-Published by S. Kennedy No. 129, Chesnut Street, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969), p. 312.
132 Portfolio12
Winterthur

The publication of Barralet's elaborate engraved only occur when a certain set of circumstances pre-
apotheosisprecededRembrandt Peale's transparency vails. Those who listen and receive the new hero into
by two and a half years.Although in composition they their culture's mythology must be willing to cast the
do not resemble each other, they do share common leader into the hero's role and wish for his immortal
characteristics. Both artists deified America's fore- fame. The hero must have exploits that lend them-
most hero in an apotheosis. Neither used the apotheo- selves to heroic interpretation, and George Washing-
sis, as French artists had, to associate the defied hero ton did, as his admirerswere quick to note. Congress-
with insurgentideas. To appreciate this difference in man Lee reminded the mourners that "in the dismal
approach, we must examine American sentiments hour of Indian victory, pressed by the conquering
toward Washington in the years immediately follow- savage foe," the youthful Washington had saved
ing his death. Braddockand the king'sarmy from total defeat in the
By the time of Washington's death a growing sense French and Indian War.
of confidence in the democratic experiment had Casting Washington in the hero's role was not an
replaced the fears of many that it would not work. exercise limited to patriotic Americans. An editor of
Despite earlier vilification, George Washington now the MorningChronicle (London) went so far as to state
served as the embodiment of that success-the man that Washington's entire career was unblemished:
whosecharacterand reputation had placed the repub- "The whole range of history does not present to our
lic on a sound foundation. The desire to extol his ac- view a characterupon which we can dwell with such
complishmentsand celebrate him, to apotheosize this entire and unmixed admiration. The long life of
American hero, was beginning to permeate all forms General Washington is not stained by a single blot."
of artistic, literary, and oratorical expression. The editor added confidently: "His fame, bounded
CongressmanHenry Lee, who delivered the official by no country, will be confined to no age." Another
funeral oration from the pulpit of the Lutheran commanding figure of the era, the first consul of
Church in Philadelphia, set the new exalted tone. France, Napolean Bonaparte, ranked Washington
Although Lee did not go so far as to suggest that with ancient heroes: "He seems so little to belong to
George Washington achieved an apotheosis, he ex- moder times that he imparts to us the same vivid
pressedhimself in the idiom of apotheosis. Washing- impressions as the most august examples of antiq-
ton, he told his listeners,had become so habituated to uity."40
caringfor his fellow Americansthat even in retirement Americans wished to believe in Washington's ac-
he neglectedhimselfand disregardeda slight cold. But complishmentsand, during a period of bereavement,
his death was not the end, Lee declared: "An end did in his immortal fame. But in America his myth was
I say?-his fame survives!bounded only by the limits hybridized-the incongruous additional element was
of the earth,and by the extent of the human mind. He commercialization.It fell to Parson Weems, an una-
survivesin our hearts ... and when even our young bashedembellisher,to expand the original form. After
and far-spreading empire shall have perished, still the initial period of mourning ended, it was Weems
will our Washington's glory unfaded shine, and die who capitalized on Americans'receptivity to the idea
not, until love of virtue cease on earth, or earth itself of a mythologized hero. In TheLife of GeorgeWashing-
sinks into chaos."38 ton:WithCurious EquallyHonourable
Anecdotes, toHimself
Lee'ssentimentshad been anticipated by President andExemplary to his YoungCountrymen,
Weems spun the
John Adams. In a statement released to the press as tale of young George,his little hatchet and the cherry
preparationswere being made for Washington's fu- tree.Weems alone knew how to interpretMary Wash-
neral, Adams wrote: "Malice could never blast his ington's dream concerning her son's future greatness.
honor and envy made him a singular exception to her And Weems carefully included the verbatim quote of
universal rule. . . . For his fellow-citizens, if their a famous (but, in Weems's account, anonymous) In-
prayerscould have been answered,he would have been dian warrior,who had tried to kill Washington while
immortal."Abigail Adams rephrased her husband's he was rescuing Braddock'sdefeated troups: "Wash-
thoughts with pith and vigor: "Simple truth is his ington was not born to be killed by a bullet! I had
best,his greatesteulogy. She alone can renderhis fame seventeenfair firesat him with my rifle, and all could
immortal."39 not bring him to the ground."41
Enthusiasmfor a leader, couched in such terms,can
40
Freeman, GeorgeWashington,7:648.
38W. S. Barker,ed., Character
Portraits
of Washington
(Philadelphia: 4Mason L. Weems, The Life of Washington,ed. Marcus
Robert M. Lindsay, 1887), p. 63. Cunliffe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press,
39Freeman, GeorgeWashington,7:650, 653. 1970), pp. 12, 55-58, 42.
JohnJames Barraletand theApotheosisof GeorgeWashington 133

When he came to tell of Washington's death, Great Virtues." According to Weems, Washington's
Weems, an ordained Anglican minister, fashioned virtueswere: "1 his Veneration for the Diety or Reli-
a Christian mise-en-scene. His account takes on the gious Principles. 2 His Patriotism. 3d his Magnin-
grand proportionsof an apotheosis, but angels are the mity. 4 his Industry. 5 his Temperance & Sobriety. 6
principal actors. According to Weems, Washington, his Justice, &c. &c."44
feeling the "silver chord of life" loosening, closed his Between 1800 and 1808 seven editions of
eyes for the last time, folded his arms decently on his Weems's TheLife of Washington appeared, all but the
breast, breathed out "Father of mercies! take me to firstpublished by Carey. Each edition was more elab-
thyself," and fell asleep. All this Weems crafts into orate than the preceding one. In 1808 Weems
one remarkablesentence that prepares the reader for imprudentlysold his copywright to Carey, and there-
the final scene: after Carey refused to allow any further embellish-
ments. This recalcitrancedid not discourage Weems
Swifton angels'wings the brighteningsaint ascended; from trying to convince Carey to bring out an
whilevoicesmorethan humanwereheard(in Fancy'sear)
warblingthroughthe happy regions,and hymning the improved version: "You have a great deal of money
greatprocessiontowardsthe gatesof heaven.His glorious lying in the bones of old George," he advised Carey,
comingwas seen far off, and myriadsof mighty angels "if you will but exert yourself to extract it."4
hastenedforth,withgoldenharps,to welcomethehonoured It is within this context of myth and American op-
stranger.. . . All that followed was too much for the portunism that Barralet'sapotheosis ultimately must
overdazzled eyeof Imagination.
Shewasseento return,with
the quickpantingbosomand looks entrancedof a fond be understood. As early as December 19, 1800,
mother,nearswooningat suddensightof a dearlovedson, Barraletadvertised in the PhiladelphiaGazettethat he
deemed lost, but now found, and raised to kingly hon- was taking subscriptionsfor his engraving. An adver-
ours!42 tisement for the engraving itself appeared in Phila-
Weems, who left Americans a mythologized hero, delphia's General Aurora Advertiseron Monday,
left them one thing more: his correspondence to his February 3, 1802. The city had been the scene of
publisher.And thiscorrespondencethrowslight on the Washington's official obsequies; the nation had
underside of myth in America. There was a part of mourned by staging a funeral procession and burial
Weems'simagination that was not taken up with early although Washington's body remained at Mount
childhood tales, inspired visions and dreams. In June Vernon. Congressman Henry Lee had delivered his
famous funeral oration in Philadelphia. Because
1799, six months before Washington's death, Weems
wrote to the publisher Mathew Carey about an idea Philadelphiawas also a publishing center, biographies
fora book. The father of a newborn creation, his mind of Washington, including Weems's second edition of
was fecund with ideas: "I have nearly ready for the 1800, were published there. As a resident of Philadel-
pressa piece christend, or to be christend, 'The Beau- phia, Barralet had witnessed this cycle of mourning,
ties of Washington. .. .' What say you to printing it mythologizing, and profit-taking and then took ad-
for me and ordering a copper plate Frontispiece of vantage of it himself.
that Heroe, something in this way. George Washing- The publication of Barralet'sengraving was timed
ton Esqr. The Guardian Angel of his Country 'Go to coincide with Washington's birthday. February 22
thy way old George. Die when thou wilt we shall already had become the high water mark in the flow
never look upon thy like again'"43 Weems had of Americansentiment for Washington. Barralet cal-
culated accordingly: "APOTHEOSIS OF WASH-
already concluded that the book would sell like flax
seed. INGTON finished for delivery.... The subscribers
A month after Washington's death Weems in- are respectfullyinformed that the proof prints will be
creased the pressure upon Carey. He wrote in mid- delivered at S. Chaudron's, No. 12, South Third
Street. Feb. 5, dim." The advertisement, which ran
January 1800: "I've something to whisper in your
from Monday, February3, through Saturday, March
lug. Washington, you know is gone! Millions are
gaping to read something about him. I am very 6, 1802, also provided a description of the engraving:
"The subject-Gen. Washington raised from the
nearly primd and cockd for 'em. 6 months ago I set
myselfto collect anecdotes of him. My plan! I give his Tomb, by the Poetical and Historical Genius, assisted
history,sufficiently minute.... I then go on to show by Immortality-at his feet America weeping over his
that his unparralled rise & elevation were due to his
Weems to Carey as cited in Weems, Life of Washington,p.
xv.
4Weems, Life of Washington, pp. 168-69. 5 Weems to Careyas cited in Weems, Lifeof Washington,
pp. xviii-
4Weems to Carey as cited in Weems, Life of Washington,
p. xiv. xix.
134 Portfolio12
Winterthur

continent may stand for those Indians who lamented


Washington's passing. And finally, Faith, Hope, and
Charity receive a new interpretation in predominantly
Protestant America. With the label "Mental Virtues"
they could be understood to refer to Washington him-
self or Americans in general rather than the theologi-
cal virtues traditionally revered in Catholic Europe.
As many as 600 engravings, measuring 24 by 181/2
inches, could have been pulled from Barralet's plate.
In addition, some of these engravings were converted
into other art forms and received still wider distri-
bution. An enterprising artist copied Barralet's design
as a life-sized transparency for exhibition in a Boston
theater.47 One engraving was carried to China,
where Chinese artists duplicated the design as a
painting on glass plaques (Fig. 19) and export porce-
lain.48 The faithful copies were deficient in only one
detail: Barralet's name and the place and date of
publication were omitted. In one respect, this act of
artistic piracy was a high compliment to the artist
because Yankee sea captains had a shrewd sense of
what the American public would buy.49 In an era
before America had a copyright agreement with
China, the artist's reward had to be supramone-
tary.
The practice of depicting an apotheosis on objects
Fig. 19. A memorial to George Washington based on the sold to the public has ancient antecedents. The
engraving by Barralet shown in figure 1. China, ca. 1802.
Oil on glass; H. 26 5/8", W. 19 1/4". (Winterthur 60.570.) underside of a kylix decorated by the Phrynos
Painter in the sixth century B.C. represents Hercules
led by Hera into the presence of Zeus (Fig. 20). This
Armour, on the opposite side an Indian crouched in
apotheosis of Hercules was painted onto a type of pot
surly sorrow, in the third ground the Mental Virtues,
Faith Hope and Charity." In this advertisement
certain figures have been reinterpreted, probably to Sommer,"The Metamorphosesof Britannia," AmericanArt:1750-
1800, TowardsIndependence, ed. Charles F. Montgomery and
make them more suitable companions to America's Patricia E. Kane (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1976), pp.
prime Revolutionary hero. The "Poetical and His- 40-49.
torical Genius" is in fact Father Time, but the former 47BostonColumbian Centinel,Apr. 2, 1834.
title makes him a particularly appropriate companion 48One copy painted on glass, in the Winterthur Museum collec-
for Washington. "America weeping" is the figure with tion, is reproduced in color in The AmericanHeritageHistoryof the
MakingoftheNation(New York:American Heritage Publishing Co.,
the attributes of Liberty and probably represents both
1968), p. 66. E. McSherry Fowble, associate curator and in
America and Liberty, as is the case in other contem- chargeof graphics,WinterthurMuseum, kindly wrote me about the
porary engravings." If so, the Indian, "crouched in process used by the Chinese artist: "Although he followed .the
surly sorrow" rather than representing the American engravingin great detail, the artist did not transfer the engraving
onto the glass before proceeding with the painting" (July 26,
6Barralet'sown advertisements, issued in the two-year interval 1973). The New Haven Historical Society has one copy. Another
between the pulling of the proof prints and the finished engraving, copy, in the MarbleheadHistorical Society collection, is illustrated
make it clear that he equated Liberty with America. On Dec. 19, in Carl L. Crossman, "China Trade Painting on Glass," Antiques
1800, he advertised in the PhiladelphiaGazette:"The subject, 95, no. 3 (Mar. 1969):377. Crossmanwrites that this workwas made
GENERALWASHINGTON... At his feet, AMERICA Weeping for Benjamin Wheeler of Boston about 1810. The Marblehead
over his Armour, holding the Staff surmounted by the Cap of Historical Society collection also contains a Liverpool pitcher
Liberty, emblematical of his mild administration." In his later with Barralet'sdesign.
wash drawing entitled Wisdomand Truth leading the Infant Arts 9For an account of one such captain and a Gilbert Stuart
toAmerica he also gives the attributes of Liberty to America. See n. portrait of Washington that he pirated, see E. P. Richardson,
7. For a discussion of an intermediate phase when artists in the "China Trade Portraits of Washington after Stuart," Pennsylvania
separate colonies equated Liberty with Britannia, see Frank H. Magazineof Historyand Biography94, no. 1 (Jan. 1970): 95-100.
John James Barralet and the Apotheosisof GeorgeWashington 135

Fig. 20. Apotheosis of Hercules as shown on black-figure lip cup decorated by the Phyrnos Painter.
Athens, 550-530 B.C. (British Museum.)

the Greeks exported to their Mediterranean neigh- paintedan apotheosisof Washington in 1849, the poet
bors. Seen in this context, an apothesis of George George Rogers penned an explanation that included
Washingtonpainted onto plaques and Chinese export an unqualified endorsement of Washington's leader-
pitchers is part of a continuing tradition. ship: "Ah!Yes, indeed, without thee, O! Washington,
The Apotheosis of George Washington, in whatever the world,in a political point of view, might have been
medium it was depicted, also heralded a characteris- still writhing under the incubus of despotism."51
tically Americantradition: the glorification of Ameri- Unfortunately, Burs's apotheosis is lost.
can presidentsafter death. The glorification of Wash- Another important lost work, completed in 1854,
ington continued well into the nineteenth century, celebrated Washington's elevation not to Olympus
and the course of this process can be charted by log- but to Heaven. The American artist Rembrandt
ging his representationsas an apotheosized figure.5 Lockwood, working first in Munich and then in
Barralet'sengraving was reissued in 1816 and then Newark,New Jersey, conceived and executed a great
twice more in the nineteenth century. Judging from painting in oil of the LastJudgment.Drawing inspira-
the appearance of the engraving in the fourth state, tion from workson the same subject by both Michel-
the proofs were pulled until the plates wore out. angelo and Peter von Cornelius as well as Raphael's
Around 1830 Samuel Moore painted another apo- Disputa,Rembrandt Lockwood's version contained
theosis that H. Weshaupt copied as a colored litho- over one thousand five hundred figuresand measured
graph and coupled with a rhapsodic description that 27 by 17 feet. A finished preliminary drawing
hailed Washington as the first in council, the first in indicates that Lockwood placed Washington, the
the field, the first in the hearts of his fellow citizens, father of his country, along the central axis directly
and the father of his country. When James Burns beneath the figure of Christ the Judge (Fig. 21).
51 Explanation the
of Painting,byJamesBums,of Washingtoncrowned
50Another manifestation of Washington's glorification can be bythreeangels,emblematic andLibertyWitha halo
of Equality,Fraternity
seen in the landscape representations of his estate and tomb formedof the hues of the Rainbow,surrounded by eminentPatriotsof
site. The firstofthese, MOUNT VERNONIN VIRGINIA/ The Seat othercountries,
the descriptionof the Painting, as delivered by George
of the late Lieut. General George Washington, was published by Rogers, at its exhibition at the Apollo, New York (New York:
FrancisJukes on Mar. 31, 1800. Cameron's Steam Press, 1850), p. 6.
136 WinterthurPortfolio 12

Fig. 21. Rembrandt Lockwood, Preliminary drawing for The LastJudgment.Newark, New Jersey, ca.
1850. Pencil, charcoal, and wash; H. 37", W. 24". (Newark Museum, gift of Vose Galleries and
William Gannon, 1965.)
John James Barralet and the Apotheosis of George Washington 137

Washington is oriented toward the blessed. A toga-


'i
W. ~
draped seated figure, he turns in the direction of the
nude woman who has broken her bonds-slavery
freed-and, behind her, the Holy Family. In so doing,
Washington keeps his back to personifications of
Ambition, Despair, Drunkenness, Hate, Sloth,
Procrastination, Envy, and Covetousness. Lock-
wood's LastJudgmentwas exhibited in Newark and
New York and gained a wider audience in a repro-
ductive engraving.52
The penultimate glorification of Washington how-
ever must be the apotheosis frescoed into the eye of
the Capitol dome by Constantino Brumidi. The
Italian-born artist painted Washington seated in
majesty,attended by Freedom and Victory, and sur-
rounded by personifications of the thirteen original
states and other figures that represented the fall of
tyranny and the prosperity accruing from agricul-
ture, commerce,and the arts and sciences. Brumidi's
apotheosiswas finished in 1865, the year of Abraham
Lincoln'sassassination.Upon the death of Lincoln the
idea of apotheosiswas pressedinto service again, this
time to suggest that one American president could
transferhis glorification to another. In a photomon-
tage the two presidents embrace in the clouds as
Washington bestows the laurel crown upon the mar-
tyred Lincoln (Fig. 22). This photographic cartede
visite,by an anonymous artist, became common in
Victorian parlor albums after 1865.53
Fig. 22. Apotheosis of George Washington and Abraham
Apotheosis, variously transmogrified, endured a Lincoln as shown on a cartede visite, ca. 1865, in the collection
surprisinglylong time in American art and life. It took of the late F. E. Seaton, Minneapolis. From Richard
root in receptivesoil. John James Barralet'sengraved Rudisill, MirrorImage: The Influenceof the Daguerreotype
onAmericanSociety(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico
apotheosis of 1802 had set the precedent. Death was
the catalyst that brought together a bereaved nation Press, 1971), pl. 1.

prepared to mythologize a hero and an Irish artist


familiarwith classicaland Christian traditions in art.
Barralethad only to alter the ancient form of the apo-
theosis to serve the needs of the American polity.

5William H. Gerdts, Jr., "Rembrandt Lockwood, an Artist of


Newark,"Proceedings of the NewJerseyHistoricalSociety:A Magazine
of NewJerseyHistory,76, no. 4 (Oct. 1958): 265-78.
53Richard Rudisill, MirrorImage:TheInfluenceof theDaguerreotype
onAmerican Society(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press,
1971), p. 13 and pl. 1.

Minat Terkait