In the wake of the death of George Washington on December 14th 1799, a wave of national mourning swept the new American republic. Newspaper tributes and mock funerals proliferated throughout the former colonies. Permanent memorials included renamed buildings and streets, a flood of lithographic and engraved mementos, and epic works of art commemorating Washington's exploits. In this spirit, on March 1st, 1800, the Rhode Island House of Representatives commissioned two monumental full-length portraits of George Washington to hang in the State Houses at Providence and Newport: “The citizens of this State, on all proper occasions, having uniformly expressed their inviolate attachment to the person of the late General George Washington, and their entire approbation of his conduct in public and in private life: The General Assembly, deeply impressed with the importance of perpetuating his eminent virtues which have shone with unrivalled lustre, and of transmitting to posterity the high estimation in which he is held by his fellow citizens, and of giving them an opportunity of seeing the likeness of the man who was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen; and who expressed in his features the benevolence of his nature, and manifested in his person the dignity of his mind, Do Resolve, That two portraits of him drawn at full length by some eminent artist, with suitable frames, be procured at the expenses of the State, and that one of them be placed in the Senate chamber in each of the State houses of Newport and Providence.”
Yarnall, James L.
"The Full-Length Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart in the Newport Colony House,"
Newport History: Vol. 72
, Article 9.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.salve.edu/newporthistory/vol72/iss249/9