A Portrait miniature, probably Major General Philip John Schuyler (1733-1804), wearing the uniform of the American (Continental) Army, his hair powdered
American School, late 18th Century
“Philip Schuyler…was a general during the American Revolution and later played an important role in the nation’s political ambitions.”
Watercolour on ivory
Oval, 50mm (1 7/8 in), gilded metal frame
This miniature was originally thought to represent George Washington but is far more likely to be a portrait of Philip Schuyler, who was a general during the American Revolution and later played an important role in the nation’s political ambitions.
Born in Albany, New York, Schuyler soon became acquainted with the aristocracy and in time developed strong international connections, travelling extensively and learning practical skills which he hoped could be utilised to his nations benefit.
It was during the outbreak of the Seven Years War that Schuyler first experienced military combat being appointed by his Cousin, Lieutenant Governor James DeLancey to command a force against Crown Point. Following this Schuyler escorted French troops to Albany and afterwards held a position organizing a military depot, leading eventually to a job as a commissary officer where he learnt a great deal about business and supply channels.
Following a large inheritance from his father Schuyler returned to New York as a society gentleman, buying up thousands of acres in the Mohawk Valley, where he installed various mills and even bought a small fleet of merchant vessels for commerce with the West Indies. Schuyler was elected to the Provincial Assembly of New York in 1768 and played a crucial role in the discussions relating to Britain’s increasingly firm grip over the American colonies. In 1775 Schuyler attended a revolutionary New York convention and was soon appointed Major General of the Continental Army and given command of the Northern Department. Schuyler played a key role in defending the central New York state from invasion; however following a series of retreats due to dispirited troops Congress replaced Schuyler with General Horatio Gates, who sadly received more credit than was due.
Schuyler battled with unjust accusations of treason and neglect of duties and at his own insistence was put on trial. He was of course acquitted but his reputation amongst the troops never recovered, he resigned his position therefore in 1779 and joined Congress where he was a keen advocator of currency and army reforms. He was a commissioner for Indian affairs until 1785, as well as holding the positions of state senator and state surveyor general for New York between 1780-97, supporting the idea of a central government. Schuyler then became a United States senator between 1789-91 and then again in 1897-8. Schuyler died in 1804 in Albany.
Although it has not been possible to identify the artist of this miniature, the technique and size are consistent with artists working in the late eighteenth century on ivory. It may be that the portrait was taken from a print or oil portrait of the time, although it does not appear to be a direct copy from any extant work. It bears the closest relation to the 1792 portrait of Schuyler by John Trumbull (1756-1843) in uniform, now at Yale University Art Gallery.