An original antique print showing the apotheosis of George Washington. When Washington died, on December 14, 1799, the nation as a whole mourned his death as that of a father, as indeed Washington was for the then still young United States. The celebration of mourning throughout the country brought the people together as few events since the Revolution had. Poets, politicians, preachers, and newspapers declaimed his death in moving phrases and artists created images which tried to express the feelings which welled up in the breasts of his countrymen. One of the most potent artistic symbols was that of the ‘apotheosis’ of Washington, scenes of Washington ascending to heaven in all his glory. One of the most unusual and interesting of the apotheosis scenes is this early lithograph based on a painting by Samuel Moore.
The image is explicated by text at the bottom, but the image is readily understood even today. At the top, Washington is being born to heaven by the seven virtues, “the inmates of his Soul in his terrestrial Pilgrimage.” Beneath, just below the American crest with its eagle, stands Columbia, “who looks up to him [Washington] as the rock of her consolation.” In the foreground are shown the sixteen “Orphan States, dissolving in sorrow at his Tomb, and lamenting the departure of their adored Friend, Benefactor, and Protector.” This reflects the sixteen states which were part of the United States at the time of Washington’s death. This print is very rare and it is hard to date, but this image is certainly one of the most interesting and unusual Washington prints.