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Gibert Stuart's Painting on the US One-dollar Bill

United States one-dollar bill and  Athenaeum Portrait , 1796, oil on canvas by Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828), 121.9 x 94 cm (40 x 37 in). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

United States one-dollar bill and Athenaeum Portrait, 1796, oil on canvas by Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828), 121.9 x 94 cm (40 x 37 in). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Front of the United States one-dollar bill featuring an inverse print of Gilbert Stuart’s Washington portrait.

Front of the United States one-dollar bill featuring an inverse print of Gilbert Stuart’s Washington portrait.

Gilbert Stuart’s (1755–1828) unfinished portrait of President George Washington went on to surpass all others as the most iconic representation of the American founding father. He was a pivotal portraitist in the 18th and early 19th centuries, painting several leading political figures. The Athenaeum Portrait depicts a stoic 65-year-old Washington in the final year of his presidency and was commissioned alongside a pendant of Martha Washington. While he never completed the painting, he used it as a model to make finished copies after Washington’s death in 1799 – sixty of which survive today. At this time, many Americans’ regard for the leader soared and they desired a commemorative portrait for their homes. Stuart charged $100 per portrait and ironically referred to them as “hundred-dollar bills”. In 1869, the portrait would, in fact, be used to create an engraving for the portrait on the obverse of the one-dollar bill design. The image on the bill is reversed due to the engraving process.