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Morse painted this portrait when the Marquis de Lafayette came to the United States in 1824-25 to be honored for helping defeat the British in the Revolutionary War. Meeting Lafayette left Morse in awe:

"My feelings were almost too powerful for me...This is the man...who spent his youth, his fortune, and his time, to bring about (under Providence) our happy Revolution; the friend and companion of [George] Washington, terror of tyrants, the firm and consistent supporter of liberty, the man whose beloved name has rung from one end of the continent to the other, whom all flock to see, whom all delight to honor."

The dashing portrait bust was Morse's preliminary study for a full-length likeness of Lafayette commissioned by the City of New York (New York City Hall).

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