April 2, 2011
In my last post about Lafayette’s visit to the U.S. in 1824-1825 (note that this was a full 40 years after the Revolutionary War and his permanent return to France) I mentioned the naming of cities, streets, etc. in his honor. Another lasting tribute to the Marquis de Lafayette and his role in securing our independence, dating from that same visit, is the portrait that hangs in the House Chamber in Washington D.C. It was in December 1824, once word of the spirited welcome Lafayette received in the U.S. reached France, that the artist Ary Scheffer offered a portrait of Lafayette to the U.S. House of Representatives. The House not only accepted Scheffer’s painting but, rather than hang it in a hallway or a meeting room, displayed it on the front wall of the House Chamber, to the side of the Speaker’s rostrum (when the House moved, the painting was relocated to the current Chamber and the same prominent position). Ten years after receiving the painting of Lafayette, the House commissioned a portrait of George Washington for the other side of the speaker’s rostrum.
I can imagine the impression this made on Édouard Laboulaye, and other “friends of America” in France.