Oil on canvas.
30" x 25"
To promote his career, Savage offered to paint and donate an oil portrait of Washington for Harvard University, and on 7 November 1789, Joseph Willard, the President of Harvard, wrote a letter to Washington requesting that he sit for the painting:
"When you were in the Philosophy Chamber of the University in this place, you may perhaps remember, that I expressed my wishes, that your Portrait might, some time or other, adorn that Room. Since that, Mr Savage, the Bearer of this . . . has called on me, and of his own accord, has politely and generously offered to take your Portrait for the University, if you will be so kind as to sit. As it would be exceedingly grateful to all the Governors of this literary Society that the Portrait of the Man we so highly love, esteem and revere, should be the property of, and be placed within Harvard College, permit me, Sir, to request the favor of your sitting for the purpose."
Washington, who was then in New York, responded to Willard on 23 December 1789, confirming that the process had already begun.
Washington's diary records that he sat for the painting three hours on 21 December, "all afternoon" on 28 December, and one and a half hours on the following 6 January. The painting was duly presented to Harvard for its "Philosophical Chamber," and the University adopted a formal resolution thanking Savage for his "polite and generous attention to the University."
Josiah Quincy, later president of Harvard, insisted that the portrait was the best likeness he had ever seen of Washington.
Savage also painted a replica of the Harvard painting (and a companion portrait of Martha Washington) for Vice President John Adams. To assist in the second painting, Washington--at Adams' request--sat again for Savage on 6 April 1790. Savage probably painted a second replica for himself at that time.