MILFORD, Conn. – Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers will offer two famous Washington portraits: President George Washington and First Lady Martha Washington at an auction scheduled for Thursday, October 27th. Until their recent discovery, the portraits were unseen for nearly 100 years.
Legacy of Washington Portraits
For the past month Shannon’s has reconstructed their exciting history. After Washington’s death in 1799, Martha Washington commissioned artist Robert Field to paint portrait miniatures of her late husband. Over the next twelve months, Field painted at least eight miniatures of the first President – two depicting Washington in military uniform and six depicting him in civilian dress.
Appearing at auction in 2008 and 2009, the two military portraits realized $303,00 and $336,000, respectively. One is part of the Yale University Art Galley, while the other is now on offer by Shannon's. It is thought to be the first of the series painted by Field after a portrait by his friend Gilbert Stuart.
Field sold the civilian Washington portraits to General Samuel Meredith, first Treasurer of the United States under President Washington, for his son, Thomas Meredith. Then, in 1853, Samuel Meredith’s grandson sold the portrait miniature to Charles C. Moreau, a famous New York City collector. Moreau then sold the portrait to another well-known collector of the day, Herbert Pratt.
Seldom Seen Portrait of Martha Washington
In addition to the portrait miniature of President Washington, Pratt also acquired a rare miniature of
First Lady Martha Washington, painted by Walter Robertson, probably in 1794. In 1927, the portrait of Mrs. Washington was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Residing in a private collection until this time, it's been unseen by the public.
On the back side of Mrs. Washington’s portrait there’s a plaited lock of hair. Serving as a way to remember a loved one who is distant or deceased. It is possible that Eleanor “Nellie” Custis commissioned the portrait of her mother and then added the hair as a personal sentiment.
“These are museum-quality miniatures of two of the most famous figures in American history,” said Sandra Germain, co-owner of Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers. “They are in unbelievable condition, given their age, and the story behind them is fascinating. Our clients are excited to see them on the market and we are looking forward to the sale. We expect interest to be quite high.”
The auction will start promptly at 6 pm Eastern time in the firm’s gallery, at 354 Woodmont Road in Milford. Both the auction and preview are open to the public. For more information, you may visit Shannon’s website, at www.shannons.com.