Monday, January 20, 2020

Hercules Posey - George Washington's celebrity chef - new news

Five years ago I did a post on this gifted slave who escaped to freedom on Washington's birthday and was never found.  Well, now he has been found, but his image is lost.  The striking portrait by Gilbert Stuart was not of Hercules nor by Stuart.  The "toque" was actually a West Indian headdress. Hercules lived and was buried in New York City and he has dates! 1748-1812

Two years ago, Mount Vernon hosted a group of experts to examine the original painting before it was returned to the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, Spain.  They determined it was not painted by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828).

The tall white hat was not a chef's hat, a toque, but was a West Indian headdress.  The second image is in Agostino Brunais "Linen Market at Saint Domingo" Haiti c1770.

According to Craig LaBan's article (link below) when the findings became public, Ramin Ganeshram and Sara Krasne of the Westport Historical Society started searching for Hercules in New York City records, since he was last seen there in 1801. They used the name of his previous owner John Posey and found Hercules Posey in burial records and city directories.  He was listed as a laboror, died of consumption and was buried in the Second African Burying Ground in Lower Manhattan, now gone.

Read more about both findings -

Westport Historical Society blog post about their search HERE

Craig LaBan’s article in the Philadelphia Inquirer March 1, 2019 HERE
©2020 Patricia Bixler Reber
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