Legal History

Museum unveils life-size portrait of 4 pioneering female Supreme Court justices

The Smithsonian Institution has unveiled a life-size portrait of the four pioneering female justices at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Painted by Nelson Shanks, the portrait went on view Monday at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, reports the Washington Post (reg. req.) at its Reliable Source blog.

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the nation’s top court, and her successors, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, haven’t yet seen the completed work in person. They are expected to take a look tonight when they attend a private event tonight at the gallery in honor of the new portrait, the Blog of Legal Times reports.

Shanks said the setting for the portrait is a pastiche of several different areas of the court, the BLT notes. He said he originally sketched out the portrait, which was commissioned by philanthropists Ian and Annette Cumming, on a napkin a couple of years ago.

The justices met with him for about four hours but did not actually sit for the portrait in a traditional manner for the entire time he was working on the painting. Photos helped Shanks complete the project over approximately seven weeks, according to the Daily Mail.

Jezebel, McClatchy News Service and Wonkette also have stories.

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