Have you ever wondered which of the many portraits of Alexander Hamilton looks the most like its subject did in real life? Well, I have. So I found the following note at the back of The Conqueror, Gertrude Atherton's novelized biography of Hamilton published in 1902, most illuminating (as well as amusing). Clearly, the lady had spunk:
It is impossible that Hamilton could have sat for all the alleged portraits of himself, scattered over the United States, or he would have had no time to do any work. Moreover, few realize his personality or the contemporaneous description of him. That in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is the best. That in the City Hall, New York, is one of the best, and the copy of it in the Treasury Department, Washington, is better. Several others are charming, notably, the one at Morristown Headquarters, New Jersey, and the one painted for his army friends, now in the possession of Philip Schuyler. The one in the Chamber of Commerce is a Trumbull, but looks like a fat boy with thin legs. It is to be hoped there will be no further photographing of that libel. Had Hamilton looked like it he would have accomplished nothing.
I agree with her about the fat-boy Trumbull. It's truly hideous. Thus, when I see it on a book cover, I can only conclude that the author must be a closeted Jeffersonian. The one in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is also a Trumbull (it's the painting in my banner). Years ago, I bought a miniature copy of the portrait on E-bay. I came upon the item while doing my usual sweep of Alexander Hamilton items. There were no other bids, so I purchased it for the starting price of $25. I assumed it was a print, but recently discovered it is an actual painting. It has always been one of my prized possessions.
The portrait Atherton mentions in New York City Hall is probably the full-length Trumble pictured above, but another portrait of Hamilton hung in the Governor's Room until about 1902 (the same year The Conqueror was first published). It was attributed to John Weimar, a forgotten artist from the mid-19th century. What became of that portrait remains a mystery. The New York Times did a story about it earlier this year, if anybody's interested. To read the article online, click here.
Hi, I'm Nina Mason, an author, investigative journalist, history buff, and self-professed Hamilton fan (not the musical, the historical figure). Herein, I will share interesting tidbits related to my investigation into my belief that the Reynolds Affair and duel with Aaron Burr were part of a larger conspiracy against Hamilton directed by Thomas Jefferson.