As visitors walk through the intertwining hallways of the National Portrait Gallery, they often come upon Grant and His Generals by Ole Peter Hansen Balling—the largest work in our collection. This portrait measures 10 x 16 feet and weighs 450 pounds! So exactly how did it get to its current location in the stairwell?
While the building underwent more than six years of renovation, Grant and His Generals was safely housed in an offsite storage facility. When it was time for the painting to be returned to the building, much of the space was still under construction. To move the painting in, a large crane was used to hoist it from Seventh Street onto the second-floor portico, and then into the building. A platform extending beyond the portico served as the landing point. Here, an NPG employee used a rope to help guide the painting onto the platform.
Grant and His Generals was meticulously reinstalled in its current location on the curved wall of the second-floor stairwell. First, a large scaffolding unit was built in the stairwell. Next, a tapeline was made on the wall so that the exact placement could be achieved.
Once all preparations were made, the painting was uncrated, hoisted by numerous people, and moved into place. The original aluminum strips that secured the painting to the wall were reattached, and the original custom-made curved frame was reinstalled. Grant and His Generals was then covered in plastic to protect it from dust until the National Portrait Gallery reopened on July 1, 2006, after being closed for renovation.