Washington - Legacy
George Washington died in 1799. Upon Martha’s death in 1802, her grandson George Washington Parke Custis inherited “all the family pictures of every sort,” including the 1772 portrait of Washington by Peale. After Custis built his home “Arlington House,” the portrait hung in the Center Hall, where he displayed other memorabilia and held events in Washington’s memory.
In 1830, Custis invited American artist Anson Dickinson to paint a miniature of the 1772 Peale portrait of Washington, which then served as the model for an engraving created by James W. Steel. Steel also created an engraving of the Wollaston portrait of Martha Washington.
Those hand-colored engravings of George and Martha Custis Washington by Steel were photographed first by Boude and Miley of Lexington, VA and copied by others. Mary Randolph Custis Lee, the wife of Robert E. Lee, hand-tinted many of the cartes de visite (CdVs) for purchase as fundraisers for a new church structure that would replace the old Grace Episcopal Church in Lexington.
George Washington Custis Lee, known as Custis, was the eldest son of Robert E. Lee and Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee. In 1870, he was elected to succeed his father as 12th president of Washington and Lee University. He was also the great great-grandson of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. Upon his mother’s death in 1873, he inherited the family picture collection. The 1772 portrait of Washington was part of that collection, and it hung in the Washington and Lee University president’s house (now the Lee House) during his tenure. Upon his retirement in 1897, Lee gave that portrait and one of the Marquis de Lafayette (1779), also by Peale, to the University. The "princely gift" was reported in the 1898 university yearbook, The Calyx. The portraits were immediately hung in the painting gallery of the “University Chapel,” now known as the Lee Chapel. Early on, they were located on the bottom row of the portraits, flanking the archway. Washington's portrait is on the left.