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Sale 38 Lot 5

PORTRAIT OF CHARLES LEE(1758 - 1815) Attorney General under Washington and John Adams, and a close personal friend of Washington as well. An anonymous watercolor portrait of Charles Lee (1731-1782), circa 1775. Watercolour in black and brown ink, watermarked with a fleur-de-lys above a shield. Inset into album sheet with pencil inscription in lower left corner that reads: "Original drawing from which the mezzotint was taken". In excellent condition. Image size: 12 1/2" x 9 1/2", sheet size: 22" x 17 1/4". This appears to be the original watercolor for Shepherd's print of Tomlinson's portrait of General Charles Lee. As it is a sketch-like painting model which the artist would have produced as a basis for the published print. Public curiosity for prints of Revolutionary heroes was not limited to America, but spread to the English and European print shops, where an inquisitive audience clamored for a glimpse of the key figures of the war. Public interest reached such frenzy that European printmakers published fictitious portraits before they had accurate likenesses of the sitters. Thus, many of the first English and European prints of Revolutionary colonials were completely invented. London publishers, using the names C. Shepard, Thomas Hart, and John Morris, issued a series of mezzotints of the officers of the American Revolution, none of which are copied from accurate portraits but instead were constructed on a visual formula and bearing no resemblance to the individuals they claim to be representing! Tomlinson's portrait of General Charles Lee is just such a portrait; Lee bears little resemblance to contemporary accounts of his appearance and there is no record of his sitting for the artist. This portrait was executed and printed early in the War with the expectation that Lee would play a major role in the conflict, an assumption which was based on his past distinction in the French and Indian Wars. Although born in England, Lee committed himself to the Patriotic cause and soon became a leader in the colonial army. He took part in the defense of Charleston and commanded the Battle of Monmouth. This is a fascinating early print of this revolutionary general; it not only records the practice of invented portraits but it became a compositional model for other portraits of revolutionary heroes. Ex: Jay Fliegelman collection. Fine condition.
Estimate $ 5,000-6,000

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