One of the most important paintings in Maryland’s State-owned art collection, Washington Resigning His Commission, is being removed temporarily from the State House for extensive conservation treatment. The project is part of the ongoing restoration of the Old Senate Chamber, which is being overseen by the Maryland Department of General Services with assistance from the Maryland Historical Trust and the Maryland State Archives.
The painting shows General George Washington in the Old Senate Chamber resigning his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, one of the most noteworthy events in State House history. The painting, completed by Edwin White in 1859, was originally displayed in the room it depicted, but was moved to the Grand Staircase in 1904, where it remains.
“Future generations of Marylanders will continue to visit the State House and learn about its rich history, and we hope they will continue to be inspired by the powerful image of General Washington resigning his commission,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “The painting reminds us of George Washington’s enduring legacy of leadership, service and citizenship.”
The Grand Staircase was closed Friday, November 1, and will re-open on Tuesday, November 5th. The de-installation process began with prep work on November 1, when a team of professional art handlers placed protective covering on the floors and steps of the staircase, as well as stage necessary equipment and materials.
On Monday, November 4 the State House will be closed to the public so that the painting, which measures 119” by 180” (including the frame), can be taken down. Art handlers will remove the canvas and dismantle the frame. Due to the massive size of the canvas, it will be taken out of the State House through one of the historic windows adjacent to the 1772 entrance to the building. A specialty contractor has been hired to remove the window and to re-install it immediately after the painting has been withdrawn from the building.
The goal is to return the painting to a condition and appearance as close as possible to the original, and to protect it for long-term display. The Maryland State Archives will oversee the conservation process. The canvas and frame will be taken to designated conservators and returned to the State House for re-installation by November 2014. Completion of the restoration of the Old Senate Chamber is scheduled for December 2014.
“This project reflects DGS’ commitment to maintaining and restoring the oldest State House still in continuous legislative use in the country,” said Alvin C. Collins, Secretary of the Maryland Department of General Services. “DGS is honored to help preserve the significant role the State House has played in Maryland’s history and our nation’s history. It’s one more way DGS is doing great service for Maryland.”
The last time the painting was removed from the State House was in 2000 to allow the Grand Staircase to be repainted. The last major conservation of the canvas took place back in 1981, but the last major treatment of the frame occurred between 1958 and 1959, during the 100th anniversary of the painting.
We will update this story with photos and videos of the painting being removed.
Video (time lapse) of removal.