Earlier, I wrote a post about John Trumbull’s images of Hamilton . Today, we got some exciting news about one of Trumbull’s most iconic Hamilton portraits! Credit Suisse, the owner of the portrait, announced that it will be gifted to two institutions: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This split ownership arrangement will allow the painting to be seen by audiences in two very different parts of the country. Credit Suisse had put the painting on view at public institutions for short periods of time, but it decided that the painting should be permanently accessible to the public. The painting was acquired by Credit Suisse as part of its takeover of another investment bank, DLJ. The painting had been part of DLJ’s corporate art collection.
CEO Brady Dougan stated: “Donating this well-known and highly regarded 1792 portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull to both Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art ensures that the widest possible American and international audiences can enjoy and study this historic piece of fine art for perpetuity”
The New York Times description of the portrait’s history states:
The painting’s history is very much a New York story. In 1791 five New York merchants representing the Chamber of Commerce commissioned Trumbull to paint a full-length portrait of Hamilton, President Washington’s secretary of the Treasury.
For Trumbull the assignment was trickier than it seemed. He and his subject were friends, and Hamilton was vocal in wishing his portrait to appear “unconnected with any incident of my political life.” But the men who commissioned the painting wanted it to hang in a public building. How then could Trumbull please his clients, who said they envisioned a work stately enough to be on public view, and the sitter, who shunned anything remotely official?
Taking his inspiration from European Grand Manner portraiture, the artist posed Hamilton standing, one hand on a table that is empty except for an ink stand and papers, devoid of any political references. In the background is an archway on one side and an architectural column on the other, along with a chair with a robe causally thrown over it.
Hamilton’s warm expression reflects the artist’s obvious affection for his subject. Trumbull called Hamilton’s fatal duel with Aaron Burr in 1804, “the unhappy event which deprived the United States of two of their most distinguished citizens.”