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Photo of painting. See below for details.
by Charles Willson Peale, after Charles Willson Peale, 1782-1784
Oil on canvas. H 23, W 19 in (H 58.4, W 48.3 cm)
Independence NHP
INDE 14164

About the Man
About this Portrait:
Charles Willson Peale's museum portrait of Williams appeared on the list published in the October 13, 1784 issue of the Freeman's Journal and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser. The museum portrait appears to be a copy of a similar portrait (destroyed in 1977) painted for the Williams family. The museum replica lacks both the life portrait's background material (a classical temple labeled "MARS," which represents the Williams' military prowess) and a Society of the Cincinnati eagle medal. Peale recorded that he had added these to William's picture in late 1788. In addition, Peale also changed the color of Williams's stock (neckcloth) from black (in the life portrait) to white (in the replica).

There are many Peale-related images of Williams. All combine various elements of the life and museum portraits. Both Charles Willson Peale's 1780s miniature of Williams and Rembrandt Peale's 1796 copy of the Williams museum portrait depict Williams without a Cincinnati medal and wearing a white stock. Sarah Miriam Peale, Rembrandt's cousin, included these aspects in her c. 1830 copy of the Williams life portrait (with its classical temple). James Barton Longacre copied most of the museum portrait's elements for his engraved portrait of Williams published in The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans (1834-1839). In the engraving, Williams wears a white stock and a Cincinnati medal (Longacre also altered the trim on Williams's waistcoat to brocade and buttoned his collar).

Ownership History:
Listed in the 1795 Peale Museum catalog. Purchased by the City of Philadelphia at the 1854 Peale Museum sale.

illiams was born in Prince Georges County, Maryland. In his youth, he worked for, and then became, his county's clerk. After a brief period as a merchant in Baltimore, he joined the Frederick City rifle corps in mid-1775. At the start of the Revolution, he served during the siege of Boston. In late 1776, he was wounded and captured at Ft. Washington, New York. There, the British suspected him of espionage and imprisoned him for over a year in New York City. After his exchange, he fought at Monmouth and then joined the Continental Army's southern campaign, about which he later wrote in his detailed Narrative of the Campaign of 1780. He fought at Camden, Kings Mountain, Guilford Court House, Hobkirks Hill, and Eutaw Springs, serving until the war's end.

lected naval officer of Baltimore in late 1783, Williams later became customs collector for the port. He declined a recommission as the army's second-in-command in 1792 on the basis of ill health. The search for relief from earlier war injuries then took him to Barbados. He returned to the United States, and died on July 15, 1794

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Last Modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2001