General George Washington in military uniform and William Lee in a red turban and red-trimmed jacket
Original Author: John Trumbull
Created: 1780
Medium: Oil on canvas

George Washington and His Enslaved Valet William Lee

In this painting by John Trumbull, General George Washington stands and his enslaved valet William Lee sits on horseback atop a bluff overlooking the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War. The military fortress at West Point can be seen across the river. Lee, an enslaved house servant who accompanied Washington during the war, was believed to have been light-skinned; however, in this rendering, the artist gives him a dark complexion. A curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the institution that owns the painting, wrote of this image:

The painting is ... one of the best-known representations of Lee, depicted in a turban based on a European "orientalist" convention associated with Black figures. An accurate visual portrait of Lee, who Washington freed and granted an annuity in his will, is unknown.

Trumbull served with Washington during the war as an aide-de-camp, and he painted this scene from memory while he was in London in 1780.