• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Lexington, Va., 9 March 1867.

Mr. Jas. Sanford

135 W. 38 Street, New York City, N. Y.


I have recd your letter of the 5th inst. , and wish it was in my power to give you the information you desire. Mr. Custis, in his “Recollections of Washington”, states that Stuart painted three original portraits of him. The last was in September 1795, of which he made five copies. He sold the original to Winstanley,1 an English artist, who took it to England, and sold it to Mr. John Vaughn, who brought it to Philadelphia, where I believe it still is. He says that in 1795-96 Washington was induced to sit again to Stuart for a portrait for Mrs. Washington. The head only of this portrait was finished. It belongs to the Boston Atheneum. In the spring of 1796, Stuart painted a full length portrait of Washington for the Marquis of Lansdowne, for which Mr. Custis says he had but a single sitting. The Mr. Custis whom you mention as having given the portrait, about which you inquire, to Gov. Smith of N. C., I presume to be Mrs. Law, the grand daughter of Mrs. Washington, and sister of the late G. W. P. Custis. She possessed many souvenirs of Washington and may have had one of the five copies of Stuart made at the time he painted his first portrait; but I do not know what became of them, nor do I know anything of the picture belonging to Mrs. Moore.

With great respect, yr. obdt. svt.

(sgd.) R. E. Lee



Source: Photocopy of letterbook copy, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 738, p. 23, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 May 31



1. William Winstanley (ca. 1775-1806) was an English painter and copyist, as well as one of the earliest landscape artists in America.

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