The death of the country's first president prompted an outpouring of grief, followed quite naturally by proposals of memorials across the country. In Massachusetts, the Washington Monument Association, incorporated in 1811, decided on a figurative memorial. As there were no accomplished sculptors in America, however, they secured the services of Francis Chantrey, of London, in 1818 to provide a "pedestrian [standing] statue of George Washington in white marble."
Chantrey applied his own formula—a calm, reflective pose and distant gaze—that had proved so successful in his other statues of statesmen. Washington is depicted as a representative of the people, rather than in military dress. Having never met his subject, the sculptor was loaned a full-length portrait of the president by Gilbert Stuart from which to model the face. The scroll and drapery held to the chest, however, are neo-classical references that were still popular in England. Unveiled in Doric Hall in November, 1827, the Washington was the first full-sized marble statue in New England.
Flanking the statue are facsimiles of the tombstones of Lawrence and Robert Washington, father and uncle, respectively, of John Washington (d. 1677), English immigrant to Virginia and great-grandfather of the president. They were taken from the original tombstones in the parish church of Brington, and presented to the Commonwealth by Earl Spencer through Charles Sumner in 1861.
Also in Doric Hall are small portraits of two important figures from the Revolutionary War era: the outspoken General Artemas Ward (b. 1727 – d. 1800), who was named general and commander-in-chief of the colony's militia by the Committee of Safety until he was appointed major-general by the Continental Congress in 1776, where he served as second-in-command under Washington.
Ward faces the portrait of his counterpart, Sir Thomas Gage (b. 1719 – d. 1787) who, from 1763 to 1777, served as commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America. Gage was briefly appointed military governor of Massachusetts in 1774.