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What's Wrong with This Picture?

Vaughan Portrait - Corrected!

Or perhaps we should say what was wrong with this picture?

But before we get into that, we must pause and note that this is obviously not an original CooperToons. Instead most viewers will recognize this as a portrait of "Old Hickory Teeth", George Washington. And many art fans will know it was painted by Gilbert Stuart, the somewhat ne-er do-well-portrait artist, spendthrift, and all around rascal who received great fame (and a lot of money) by painting portraits of America's Founding Fathers even though he himself spent the entire American Revolution in England making money painting Englishmen and women who were fighting the Americans.

And the true cognoscenti will see this is as a version of the Vaughan Portrait. This was one of the three portraits of George that Gilbert (supposedly) painted from life.

But the art experts will recognize that what we have here is not the original, nor even the first copy but a rather unusual version - but also painted by Gilbert. The coat is the reddish brown compared to the more usual black coat in the original and in most all of the other copies.

The original was bought from Gilbert by the Philadelphia merchant, John Vaughn, for his father Samuel. The portrait went through a number of different hands until it ended up in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. in 1942. There is still debate, though, if the NGA portrait is the original or just one of the earliest copies. The provenance seems to argue for it being the original although it certainly wouldn't have been beyond Gilbert to promise the buyer the original and but then give him a copy.

And it is the true connoisseurs who will notice there is something different in this painting compared to the other Vaughn copies - and even of the copy of which this is a copy. The difference - the CooperToons Contribution - is that this image is a correction of a surprisingly elementary mistake - yes, the mistake - that Gilbert made in the painting. It's a mistake that if you ever take a portrait class you'll learn is the first mistake you're taught not to make. But for some reason Gilbert did and so it had to be perpetuated in the who-knows-how-many of the other copies Gilbert cranked out. For exactly what Gilbert's faux pas was, just click here.