Days ago I had seen a similar portrait of George Washington in the New Britain Museum of American Art. This one was in Pennsylvania Grand Lodge of Masons in Philadelphia. The one in Connecticut was attributed to Foeiqua, the one in Philadelphia states “unknown Chinese artist.”
These reverse paintings on glass are after Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of our first president. The label in Philadelphia really brought the situation to life. Stuart made his bread and butter from paintings of Washington and kept the portrait that’s on the dollar bill unfinished specifically so he could make copies, even after repeated requests from Martha Washington.
Pirated DVDs may plague the film industry today, but according to the label at the Masonic Lodge, Stuart had to go to battle to keep the Chinese from reproducing his portraits of Washington. Stuart asked collectors of his portraits to sign an agreement stating that only he had the right to reproduce the image. He also complained to the Circuit Court of the Eastern District of the United States in an attempt to halt forgeries for sale.
A good reference book on the topic is Decorative Arts of the China Trade by Carl L. Crossman.