- Historic Sites
A Son’s Tribute
Three long-lost paintings of Washington in action (above, at Germantown) were part of G.W.P. Custis’ lifelong effort to glorify the foster father he adored
February 1966 | Volume 17, Issue 2
One thing is certain. If they had been stolen from Arlington by a Union soldier it is very unlikely that they would have been in Virginia in the twenties. And we know that many of the Lee servants took things from the house after their mistress fled. Their descendants still living in the vicinity might well have had the paintings and not been aware of their value. Or if the paintings had not been collected from the warehouse or the art dealer in Alexandria after the Civil War, they might easily have passed into the hands of someone who did not know of their connection with Arlington. But all such conjectures must go unresolved, all such questions unanswered.
We know only that three of the Custis paintings have suddenly come to light and are now in a bank vault in Connecticut. The dirt and grime that had accumulated over the long years have been expertly removed and now their colors shine as brightly as they must have when Mrs. Lee hung the paintings high up in the front hall of Arlington. The National Park Service would dearly like to have them back in their original setting. The current asking price for the paintings is far beyond the reach of the Service, but it hopes that somehow they will be returned to the Custis-Lee mansion. When they are, it can be truly said that the family has come back to Arlington. It would undoubtedly delight Custis to know what a stir his canvases have caused more than a hundred years after his death. It would probably please him as much as the shamrocks which are still dropped on his grave.