June 22, 2024

Piece of James Monroe History Heads to Richmond

Art handlers from Ely, Inc. and staff members from the Executive Mansion and the Library of Virginia installed the portrait in February

Virginia’s Executive Mansion in Richmond has a new addition – an almost 200-year-old painting on loan from the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library. A portrait of James Monroe will reside in the State Dining Room of the Executive Mansion for two years to commemorate the bicentennial of the building’s construction in 2013. On Thursday, June 21, Gov. Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell will formally unveil the Rembrandt Peale portrait in a private reception.

Members of the James Monroe Museum staff, including Director Scott Harris and Curator Jarod Kearney, were on-hand to help install the portrait in February.

“The process of transporting and installing the painting was carried out flawlessly by personnel from our art handlers, Ely, Inc., and staff at the Executive Mansion,” Harris said. “Peale’s portrait of Monroe is at a near life-size scale, and with its frame is quite heavy. Once it was in place, First Lady Maureen McDonnell texted the Governor, who was at the State Capitol, telling him ‘James is here!’”

(from left to right): Bowley Scholar Emilie Kracen; Tom Camden, Director of Special Collections, Library of Virginia; Maureen McDonnell, First Lady of Virginia; JMMML Director Scott Harris; JMMML Curator Jarod Kearney (Courtesy Kathy Scott, Virginia Executive Mansion)

The portrait, painted by Rembrandt Peale from 1817 to 1825, is thought to be based on an earlier bust-length portrait of Monroe painted by Peale from life. The James Monroe Museum has housed the portrait since 1985.

“What makes exhibiting James Monroe’s portrait in the Virginia Executive Mansion so special is that, while he signed the legislation to build the home during his last term as governor, he never got to live in it,” Harris said. “It is therefore fitting that he has returned to take up residence in the house he helped build during its bicentennial commemoration.”

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.