The Washington Family
Original Author: Edward Savage
Created: 1796, painting completed; 1798, engraving made
Medium: Stipple engraving

The Washington Family

A 1798 engraved portrait of the nation's First Family depicts Martha and George Washington with the grandchildren they raised, Eleanor ("Nelly") Parke Custis and George Washington ("Washy") Parke Custis. (These were two of Martha's grandchildren from a previous marriage.) An enslaved servant dressed in livery, possibly William Lee, stands behind the family. Plans for the new federal city, to be named after Washington, are spread out on the table. The Potomac River can be seen in the background beyond the drapery.

The artist Edward Savage originally created a roughly seven-by-nine-foot oil painting of this scene that was exhibited in 1796 and became an immediate symbol of national pride. Washington was so enamored with the image that in 1798 he ordered several stipple engravings based on the painting, including this one, and directed that they be placed in "handsome, but not costly, gilt frames, with glasses." One of the engravings was hung in the family dining room at Mount Vernon.