The firm believes it was executed by James Sharples, the British pastellist who in 1794 travelled to the US with his family. It is thought that Sharples secured a sitting with Washington not long after his arrival c.1795-97.
Sharples and his wife Ellen produced multiple versions of the profile portrait for the local market in Philadelphia. A few of these have survived and occasionally come to market in the US.
It is believed that the portrait was once owned by collector Jeffery Whitehead and was exhibited in London twice – in 1899 (when it was incorrectly attributed to Russell) and in 1891 (when it was catalogued as by ‘Sharpless’ as James Sharples was known at the time).
It then sold at Christie’s in 1915 and later found its way to Bowden Hall in Upton St Leonards near Gloucester – the same family collection as the ‘first African-American published book of poetry’ written by a slave girl, Phyllis Wheatley, 1773, that the auction house sold earlier this year for £16,500 (see Books and Works On Paper, ATG No 2504).
This portrait is estimated at £30,000- 50,000.