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O’Malley’s portrait temporarily removed from State House after failing to measure up

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley poses beside his official portrait during a July 19 unveiling ceremony. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

When it comes to official portraits of governor’s past, size apparently matters.

A long-awaited portrait of former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is now gone after a very brief public appearance. The portrait was unveiled in July and sent to what was to be its home in the Governor’s Reception Room inside the State House.

The official portrait of former Gov. Martin O’Malley (second from right) hung briefly on the wall of the Governor’s Reception Room in the State House. It can be seen here in a July 25 photo released by the Office of the Governor. It was removed sometime later to be replaced with a larger version. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

But a photo shown to Maryland Matters highlighted a sizable issue.

O’Malley’s portrait, hanging on the wall between Republican former Govs. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Larry Hogan, was a wee bit smaller.

Visibly smaller.

“When commissioning the artist, the O’Malley’s Foundation for the Preservation of Government House did not coordinate with the Commission on Artistic Property to confirm the standard size of recent gubernatorial portraits,” State Archivist Elaine Rice Bachmann said in an email.

The official portraits of governors and their spouses and companions are paid for through private donations to a fund established for the operation and upkeep of the governor’s mansion. Once completed, the portraits are turned over to the Maryland State Archives and become part of the state’s art collection.

But how much smaller could O’Malley’s portrait really be?

Six portraits hang on the wall where O’Malley’s would be installed. At 1,200 square inches, O’Malley’s current portrait would be the smallest. It would be roughly 30% smaller than either Ehrlich’s or Hogan’s.

It would be more than 55% smaller than those of Govs. Parris Glendening and William Donald Schaefer, based on dimensions available on the website of the Maryland State Archives.

O’Malley and his wife, retired Baltimore City District Court Judge Katie Curran O’Malley, attended a private unveiling ceremony on July 19. The event was hosted by Gov. Wes Moore (D) and his wife, Dawn, at the governor’s mansion.

The former governor’s portrait is traditional. It features the two-term Democrat standing near a window in his State House office. There are several pieces of personal artwork visible in the background.

The former first lady’s portrait features her standing at the base of the staircase in Government House. She is wearing her judicial robe leaning on the banister. In her hand is a gavel that belonged to her father, J. Joseph Curran, when he served as chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

The size of Judge O’Malley’s portrait is identical to that of her husband.

The former governor’s portrait was briefly installed in the State House, but was removed from public view sometime later.

“Because the portrait of Governor O’Malley gifted to the state’s collection in July 2023 was smaller than the other recent portraits, the artist, Jorge Alberto Gonzalez, has very generously offered to paint a new portrait, which he will donate to the state’s art collection,” Bachmann added. “When that portrait is completed, it will be installed in the Governor’s Reception Room, and this is anticipated to happen prior to the opening of the 2024 legislative session.”

For now, the eight portraits that were in place before O’Malley’s was delivered are now back. This means disgraced Republican Gov. Spiro T. Agnew gets a stay, albeit temporary, from exile.

Once O’Malley’s portrait returns, the one of Agnew is expected to head to storage.



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O’Malley’s portrait temporarily removed from State House after failing to measure up