This historically significant cameo mourning pendant featuring President George Washington was purchased by Martha Washington (nee Custis) and given to family members after his death. The carved hardstone cameo is encased in glass and is set in silver bejeweled with clear paste stones. The likeness of the great American patriot is modeled after the famed busts composed by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828). It is believed that Martha commissioned this pendant and other specialized mourning jewelry from jewelers such as Joseph Anthony, Jr. of Philadelphia, a fact supported by Washington household account books showing several payments to Anthony by the former First Lady.
In 1785, Benjamin Franklin invited the renowned Houdon to Mount Vernon to observe the movements and expressions of then-General Washington. During his stay, Houdon made numerous sketches, crafted a clay bust and made a life mask of the prestigious American figure, from which the artist would later use to create busts and statues in various media.
This pendant is featured in White House Studies Compendium, edited by Robert W. Watson, pages 436, item number 23.
2" length x 1 1/4" width
Descended to William Lanier Washington, circa 1800;
Joseph E. Fields, II;
Hendershott Museum Consultants;
Claude and Jeanne Harkins
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