Kids Home
  Lesson PDFs
  Teacher to Teacher
  School Tours
  Lesson Plans
George Washington commanded the Continental Army in battles like the one fought at Princeton, New Jersey; the small building on the left is Nassau Hall at Princeton College. Washington stands in a remarkably calm pose, given the battle setting, with legs crossed and one arm resting on the cannon. The cannon, the flags beneath it and the captured soldiers by Nassau Hall are all clues to the meaning of this portrait: Washington has led his forces to victory. His relaxed, confident pose adds a note of satisfaction. His clothes identify his job. Only the commander-in-chief wore a blue sash. The artist Charles Willson Peale was present at this battle. He chose these clues, as well as the mood, which is created by calm weather at dawn. Peale believed in the revolutionary cause and dawn may be his way of suggesting new beginnings and hope.

Special note: The Huntington’s painting is a contemporary copy after the original painting by Peale. In the late 18th century, it was common for people to order copies of famous paintings. The Huntington’s example is thought to be a copy by a French artist, made for admirers of George Washington in France.
Anne Kirke worked at the English court of Charles I (r. 1625 – 1649). She was “dresser” to Queen Henrietta Maria, a job that involved selecting clothes and jewelry for the queen. The standing pose allows a complete view of her fashionable appearance, a job requirement. A single long curl, called a lovelock, falls on one side of her face. Fashionable men also wore lovelocks. Her silk gown features a sash and bodice with scalloped hem, both referring to men’s clothes. The many layers of expensive (and heavy) clothes were an indication of status, as only the wealthy could afford such extravagance. She points to clues. The leaping dog refers to friendship and loyalty. A butterfly hovers near the rose bush; both the rose and butterfly were symbols at this time of pleasure—or love—achieved through pain. These clues may relate to her happy marriage and her willingness to serve the queen. The lion’s head on the urn also alludes to royalty. The artist Anthony van Dyck (rhymes with trike) specialized in glamorous portraits. He focused on Anne Kirke’s pose, clothes and clues, leaving out specific indicators of mood, like weather or time of day. The place she stands (indoors? outdoors?) is also ambiguous.

Special note:
Anne Kirke died in 1641, only a few years after this portrait was made. She drowned in a boating accident on the Thames River in London. Did her heavy clothes play a part in her tragic death?