From Martha Washington to Melania Trump, These Are the Best (and Worst) First Lady Portraits Ever

A first lady portrait is a piece of history. Based on clothing worn, painting or photograph style, and other elements, it not only depicts the era, but the feel of a presidency, too. From warm, inviting tones to cold colors, a lot goes into the mood of each first lady portrait.

And while a look through the White House’s first lady portrait archives provides good insight into each first lady’s life and role at the White House, some of said portraits are complete eyesores. Up ahead, we share some of the worst, as well as the best, first lady portraits ever — starting with the worst.

1. Melania Trump

Melania Trump Portrait

This seems like an odd choice. | The White House via Getty Images

From inappropriate hurricane relief outfits to her astronomically priced garments, Melania Trump has done/ worn some questionable things in her first year as first lady. So, it should come of no surprise that the first lady of the United States received some criticism for her official White House portrait.

In Trump fashion, the first lady resembles more of a reality TV judge (that blue background resembles the American Idol set, doesn’t it?) than a first lady.

2. Martha Jefferson

Martha Jefferson Portrait

Maybe she should have gone with something more classic. | White House Historical Association

While we appreciate the abstract strokes in Martha Jefferson’s official first lady portrait, the entire thing is a bit strange. Not to mention: It looks like fridge artwork done by a child.

3. Mary Lincoln

Mary Tod Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln has seen better days. | White House Historical Association

While we love Mary Lincoln, her first lady portrait could use some touching up. Particularly in the eye area, as it appears the former first lady had a black eye at the time of her sitting. Whether it’s real or not, you’d think the artist could have covered it up for her!

4. Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt potrait

What is happening here … | White House Historical Association

Eleanor Roosevelt’s official first lady portrait brings on a wave of questions. For starters: What’s with all of the facial expressions and hand gestures? We get that she wears glasses, likes to knit, and occasionally needs to remove her wedding ring, but is it necessary to capture these and include them in an awkward sequence below her portrait?

5. Jacqueline Kennedy

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy

This is rather eerie. | White House Historical Association

While most photographs of Jackie O. emulate impeccable style and grace, her official first lady portrait as Jacqueline Kennedy looks as if the former first lady is the White House’s resident ghost.

6. Rachel Jackson

Rachel Jackson portrait

This portrait could totally be haunted. | White House Historical Association

Is it just us or does Rachel Jackson’s first lady portrait look like it belongs in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland? Resembling a haunted mourner, we’d hate to tip-toe past the portrait on our way to the White House kitchen for a midnight snack.

 7. Jane Pierce

Jane Pierce portrait

This seems too candid to be an official portrait. | White House Historical Association

While there’s nothing wrong with her first lady portrait, per se, Jane Pierce’s White House portrait looks more like a sweet photo between mother and child than an official portrait.

Now that we’ve haunted you with the worst first lady portraits, let’s take a look at some of the best. From Nancy Reagan to Michelle Obama, we share the most glamorous first lady portraits, ahead.

8. Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama portrait

Michelle looks like a picture perfect first lady. | White House Historical Association

In a crisp photograph, Michelle Obama’s warm, inviting smile beams from ear-to-ear. Not only does the former first lady look incredibly graceful and stoic, the mix of warm lighting and cool colors gives a more neutral feel to the piece.

9. Frances Cleveland

Frances Folsom Cleveland portrait

This could definitely be hanging in an art museum, not just the white house. | White House Historical Association

In a soft pink portrait, Frances Cleveland’s official White House portrait has some major ballerina vibes. And while it is an older, more stylistic portrait, we can still get a clear sense of what the former first lady looked like (unlike Martha Jefferson’s portrait).

10. Ellen Arthur

Ellen Arthur portrait

A simple but effective portrait. | White House Historical Association

Perhaps one of the more simple portraits of the former first ladies, Ellen Arthur’s official White House portrait proves that you don’t need to be captured in a fancy dress or background. We love the soft, simple brushstrokes in this portrait, as well as the profile angle of the former first lady.

11. Edith Roosevelt

Edith Roosevelt portrait

This portrait totally captures the first lady. | White House Historical Association

Edith Roosevelt brings the early 1900s American glamour to life in her official first lady portrait. Sitting on a bench in Victorian-esque garb, the former first lady appears to be taking a break from her duties in a portrait that is warm and inviting. Not to mention: The smug expression on her face gives us a glimpse of her personality.

12. Grace Coolidge

Grace Coolidge portrait

To be fair, any portrait with a dog is a winner in our books. | White House Historical Association

Grace Coolidge is the only first lady to include her most loyal companion in her official portrait and we could not love her more for it. In addition, the former first lady chose to have her portrait painted in the White House gardens and is seen in a chic red floor-length dress 1920s-esque gown. Looking ultra stylish and chic.

13. Lady Bird Johnson

lady bird johnson official photo

Lady Bird is just like us! | White House Historical Association

While she looks like a tourist admiring the National Mall, we can’t help but swoon over Lady Bird Johnson’s 1960s style in her first lady photograph. Pictured on a balcony of the U.S. Capitol, the first lady has a sense of pride wiped across her face and a warm, welcoming smile.

14. Betty Ford

Elizabeth Betty Ford portrait

Betty Ford looks completely elegant. | White House Historical Association

Pastel looks good on Betty Ford. For her first lady portrait she went with a warm pastel color story, featuring her in a baby blue flowy gown and coral-colored roses. The warmth of the portrait feels inviting and friendly and gives the former first lady a sense of sweetness.

15. Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan portrait

Nancy Reagan looks effortlessly glamorous. | White House Historical Association

As a film actress turned first lady of the United States, we aren’t surprised by the regalness of Nancy Reagan’s first lady portrait. Standing in a doorway with a warm spotlight on her, she emulates old Hollywood glamour.

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