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Washington's Tomb at Mount Vernon

ca. 1855
Origin: America, Massachusetts, Boston
Unframed: 16 5/8 x 25in. (42.2 x 63.5cm) and Framed: 20 7/8 x 29 3/8in.
Oil on canvas
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1931.102.2
View of Mount Vernon on top of the hill to the left of the canvas. The collonaded houselooks down toward a gazebo which overlooks a river to the viewer's right. Several crudely painted sailboats are on the river. In the lower left foreground below the building, a brick wall and entrance to a tomb are shown. The iron gate of the entrance is closed. A large tree grows to the right, with smaller ones around the tomb and the building. The sky has a pinkish cast, and the hills on the far side of the river are purplish. The green trees have yellow, white, pink, or copper highlights.
The 2 3/4-inch molded wood frame, painted gold, is a modern replacement.
Label:In 1837, the Washington family vault at Mount Vernon, Virginia, was replaced by a tomb, and the formal entranceway shown here was added. S. H. Brooke had sketched the scene in 1838, and in subsequent years, printed versions after his drawing appeared in popular magazines and were sold as individual prints, such as N. Currier's lithograph of 1840. Prior's picture was most likely based on an illustration that appeared in the October 29, 1853, issue of Gleason's Pictorial.
Prior probably did a number of these Mount Vernon views, but only one other example, identical in composition, has been identified. Both pictures illustrate the stylized, rapid painting technique that Prior consistently employed in landscape painting. Grassy lawns, the distant mountains, and the Potomac River at center right were quickly applied with sweeping, smooth brush strokes; the highlights were worked in while these areas were still wet. The numerous trees and other vegetation were rendered in rapidly applied daubs and dashes of paint to give the effect of foliage, but with no real concern for realistic detail. In fact, Prior may have been using a tool other than a brush to achieve these effects. Some of the leafage on the trees looks more like sponge work than brushwork. The most detailed passages are the dwelling house, Mount Vernon, its outbuildings, and the gate and wall entrance to the tomb at lower left.
Provenance:Edith Gregor Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York, NY; bought from Halpert June 30, 1931 by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, by whom given to CWF in 1939.
Inscription(s):Stenciled on the reverse of the original canvas support, now lined, is "PAINTING GARRET/NO. 36 Trenton St./East Boston" and "W M Prior."