What is this?
A portrait of Commodore William Bainbridge by Gilbert Stuart
When is it from?
Why is it Important?
After USS Constitution‘s impressive defeat of HMS Java, Commodore Bainbridge and his victorious crew became national heroes. On March 1, 1813, the Common Council of New York City voted to honor Bainbridge by commissioning his likeness for their Gallery of Portraits. They turned to Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), the “Father of American Portraiture.” Bainbridge sat for Stuart in his Roxbury studio, but the temperamental artist and his sitter had a disagreement, which no doubt explains the subject’s petulant expression. Stuart refused to finish the portrait. Ultimately, Commodore Bainbridge acquired this portrait and it descended through his family. The face of the oil portrait is characteristically Stuart: ruddy cheeks contrast with the pale forehead of a man who has spent years at sea wearing a hat. The painting reflects the honors bestowed on our early naval heroes by a grateful nation.