An African American woman walks across the spacious lawn of Arlington House, also known as the Lee–Custis Mansion, in this 1853 watercolor. Constructed between 1802 and 1818, the mansion overlooks the Potomac River across from Washington, D.C., and was the antebellum home of Robert E. Lee.
The painting's artist, Benson J. Lossing, was a writer and illustrator from New York who, in 1853, published a narrative sketchbook of the American Revolution. That same year he visited Arlington in order to conduct research for an article about the house and its builder, George Washington Parke Custis. After spending a week with Custis, his daughter Mary, and her husband, Robert, Lossing published his article in the September 1853 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine.