George Washington (1732-1799)
Over the fireplace on the right hand (west) wall of the State Room is a portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). This is one of two full-length portraits of Washington commissioned by the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1800, shortly after his death. Stuart, the foremost American portrait painter of his time, received $600 for each painting, and a further $389 was spent on their frames. On March 2, 1802, the portraits arrived from Philadelphia on the bark Eagle.
One painting was placed in the Senate Chamber of the Old State House on Benefit Street, Providence, where it remained until 1901, when it was moved to the State Reception Room of the new State House. The other portrait was placed in the Senate Chamber of the Old Colony House in Newport, and has been on display there since 1802. These two portraits are considered to be some of the finest that have ever been painted of our first president, and are a treasured legacy to the people of Rhode Island. *Note: Stuart's 1795 portrait of Washington was used for the picture on the $1 bill.
Oliver Hazard Perry (1785-1819)
Perry's portrait is on the northwest side of the State Room entrance (left-hand side when facing the rotunda). Perry, naval hero of the War of 1812, sent the now famous message "We have met the enemy and they are ours" after his victory over a British fleet on Lake Erie in 1813. He was promoted to captain and awarded a gold medal by Congress for his war service. He died on the Orinoco River in 1819, having contracted yellow fever while in command of a mission to Venezuela. His remains now rest in Newport, Rhode Island. His portrait was painted around 1900 by (Julius) Gari Melchers (1860-1932), one of the major late nineteenth-century painters in the world. Melchers worked in America, France, Holland and Germany, and he produced hundreds of paintings. Some of his works hang in the National Museum of American Art. Next to the stairs on the south side of the State House is a bronze statue of Perry that was cast by the Gorham Company and dedicated in 1928. This statue is a replica of a marble figure carved by William Walcutt for the City of Cleveland in 1860.
John Barry (1745-1803)
John Barry's portrait is on the northeast side of the State Room entrance (right-hand side when facing the rotunda). John Barry is known as the "Father of the American Navy". He was born in County Wexford, Ireland and was a leading patriot and hero of the Revolution. He was given command of the Lexington, the first commissioned ship in the American Navy, and won America's first naval victory against the British in April, 1776. Barry, in 1782, also won a victory in the last major naval engagement of the war, and was the senior officer of the navy when he died in Philadelphia in 1803. Commodore Barry sailed from Newport several times during the war, and in 1799, by the order of the President, he carried American envoys from Newport to France in the frigate United States. His portrait was painted by Wilfred I. Duphiney in 1950. Wilfred Duphiney was born in 1884 in Central Falls, RI. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design, and later taught there as an art instructor. His works are in the possession of the state of Rhode Island, the city of Providence and several universities and hospitals.
Nathanael Greene (1742-1786)
Nathanael Greene's portrait hangs over the fireplace on the east (right-hand side when facing the rotunda) wall of the State Room. It was painted by Gari Melchers in 1908. Across the State House steps from the statue of Oliver Hazard Perry is a bronze statue of General Nathanael Greene. It was designed by Henri Schonhardt and cast by the Gorham Company. It was dedicated in 1931.Nathanael Greene was born on August 7, 1742 in Warwick, Rhode Island. He worked in his father's iron foundry and later served in the legislature. Greene was raised a Quaker but was expelled from the Society of Friends because of his interest in the military. In 1775, on the eve of the Revolution, the Rhode Island Legislature appointed Greene brigadier in command of three regiments of militia. He soon received a similar commission in the Continental army when it was formed. Greene participated in the siege of Boston and the battles of Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth. In March, 1778, he became quartermaster general and second-in-command to Washington of the Continental army. Later that year, Greene was placed in command of the Continental army in the South. He revitalized this force, and through a series of battles and maneuvers, his southern army contained and exhausted the British forces under Lord Cornwallis. After frustrating Cornwallis' plans, Greene's forces laid siege to the British in Charleston, South Carolina. After his valiant service, at the war's end Gen. Greene retired to an estate near Savannah, Georgia, and died there on June 19, 1786.