After hearing of the American colonists causing trouble for their British rulers, an affluent 19-year-old frenchmen, Marquis de Lafayette, was emotionally overtaken by the plight of a people trying to govern itself: “My heart was (already) enlisted, and I thought only of joining my colors to those of the revolutionaries.”
Ignoring the wishes of King Louis XVI, Lafayette set sail for the Americas where he would met General Washington near Brandywine Creek in September of 1777. Washington ordered Lafayette to the services of General John Sullivan who controlled the right flank of the American forces. After a lengthy battle General Sullivan was forced to retreat, and a reluctant Lafayette followed; at which point he finally realized he had been shot in the leg. Washington sent his own surgeon, saying, “Treat him as if he were my son.” Lafayette had endeared himself to Washington and from then on would be a valued member of Washington’s military family.
Lafayette would return to France as a national hero, but three years later, and back in the United States, he would visit Washington at Mount Vernon. “Our meeting was very tender and our satisfaction was mutual,” Lafayette would later recall. During his visit the two of them discussed their concerns for America’s future. Both favored a strong central government, but there was some disagreement on slavery; Lafayette was the one who wanted it to come to an immediate end. Back in France, Lafayette would help launch the French Revolution in 1789, would serve in the National Assembly, and would draft the Declaration of the Rights of Man. He also proudly sent the key to the Bastille to Washington, who, by then, was serving as the first President of the United States.
The intaglio depicting Washington and Lafayette at Mount Vernon was originally adhered to an old wood-based card which contained harmful acids. Many water baths were used to neutralize the acids through chemistry. Rips and tears were treated, and in-drawn was done where needed. A custom American Cove frame in antique gold was made. Our hope is that we have treated it as well as Washington’s surgeons when they were sent to tend on the Marquis de Lafayette.