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|LOUIS LE BEGUE
DE PRESLE, DUPORTAIL
by Charles Willson Peale, probably from life,
Oil on canvas. H 24, W 20 in (H 61, W 50.8 cm)
|About the Man|
|About this Portrait:
Charles Willson Peale may have painted Duportail's portrait for the Philadelphia Museum in late 1781, just after the subject received his promotion to major general and just before he left for France. The portrait may date to the period between Duportail's American return in late 1782 and his resignation from the Continental Army in late 1783. It is listed among those in the museum as advertised in the 13 October 1784 issue of the Freeman's Journal and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser. Although this painting has the flat appearance (caused by the rather vague facial modeling) usually associated with copy portraits, no other Peale portrait of Duportail is known. The silver and gold medal on salmon pink ribbon is the French Order of Merité Militaire.
Listed in the 1795 Peale Museum catalog. Purchased by Townsend Ward (librarian of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania) at the 1854 Peale Museum sale. Purchased by the City of Philadelphia from Townsend Ward in 1854.
|uportail was born near Orleans, France. After graduation from the prestigious military academy in Mézières, he joined the French government's program of covert aid to the American war effort. In 1777, he was appointed the Continental Army's chief of engineers. He began rebuilding forts on the Delaware River and organized the Valley Forge encampment. He fought at Monmouth and on the Hudson, and improved the defenses at Philadelphia and West Point.
n 1779, Duportail became commandant of the Corps of Engineers and Sappers (underground fortifications). He was captured during the siege of Charleston, and later fought at Yorktown. After a leave of absence in France, Duportail resumed his American command, not resigning until the end of the war in 1783. The French Revolution cut short his return to French military service. Duportail spent two years in hiding before returning to America. He settled near Philadelphia for a few years, but died in 1802 during a voyage back to France.
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