Portrait of George Washington, after Gilbert Stuart, signed and dated 'A. Scheffer 1825' (lower left), oil on canvas, unlined, 73.1 x 60 cm
This portrait of George Washington by Ary Scheffer, commissioned in 1825 by the General Lafayette, after the famous painting by Gilbert Stuart from 1796, historically establishes the important bond linking the American president, the French General and the Dutch painter.
GEORGE WASHINGTON AND GENERAL LAFAYETTE
Marie-Joseph de Motier, marquis of La Fayette (the American influence will lead to the Lafayette contraction) was only 19 years old when he reached the American shores for the first time, in 1776. Fatherless, and soon after motherless, since his early childhood, heir of his grandfather's important fortune, he had already been married for 2 years to Adrienne de Noailles and had fathered a little Henriette. He was involved early on in the effort for Independence and achieved fame with the battles of Brandywine, Barren Hill and Monmouth. In 1780, the Congress appointed him Major-General. One of his main supporters was George Washington who entrusted him with the command of the Virginia troops in spite of his young age. This opportunity would give Lafayette the opportunity to distinguish himself with what would later be known in historical annals as the siege of Yorktown: against a British army four times larger than his own, he managed to force General Cornwallis to capitulate after weeks of siege. In order to achieve victory, Lafayette willingly sacrificed a substantial part of his fortune to pay his troops himself and keep the men under his orders.
Throughout these events, a profound friendship made of admiration and respect develops between Washington and Lafayette. When Lafayette's first son was born in 1780, he was baptised George Washington de Lafayette, and his godfather was no other than the man who bore the same name. The numerous correspondence between the two men enlightens us on their commitment to each other, as showed by this letter that Washington wrote to Lafayette, before his departure for France in 1785: "My dear Marquis, in the moment of our separation upon the road as I traveled and every hour since I felt all that love, respect and attachment for you with which length of years, close connection and your merits have inspired me. I often asked myself, as our carriages distanced itself; whether that was the last sight I ever should have of you. And though I wished to say no, my fear answered yes" (W.S. Randall, George Washington, a life, 1997, p. 420). The conclusion of this letter would unfortunately turn out to be true. Lafayette, who also became a hero in his native country during the French revolution, progressively lost his outstanding popularity, and his family was persecuted during the reign of Terror. His mother-in-law and sister-in-law, the duchess of Noailles and duchess of Ayen, were decapitated. Lafayette himself was captured by the Austrians, who delivered him to the Prussians and ended up, after many relocations in the prison of Olmütz. His wife Adrienne, would could have fled to the United States thanks to governor Morris, George Washington's diplomat in France, decided to join her husband in prison, along with her daughters Anastasie and Virginie. Their son George Washington was sent to America, to study at Harvard University. He settled in his godfather's house in Philadelphia and moved with him and his family to Mount Vernon a few months later. On December 14th 1799, while the Lafayette family, recently released from prison, was waiting to return to France, George Washington died. Lafayette, deeply saddened by this loss, would have to wait until 1824 to revisit the United States.
GENERAL LAFAYETTE AND ARY SCHEFFER
During the Napoleonic Empire, Lafayette decided to step down from politics and retire to his property of La Grange, in the Seine-et-Marne. His wife Adrienne, whose health was damaged by the conditions of detention in Olmütz, died in December 1807. It was not until 1818 that he decided to return as one of the leaders of the French Charbonnerie, a movement that opposed the return to power of the Bourbons. La Grange became the one of the meeting places of this secret society. Among its members, there were the brothers Ary and Henry Scheffer, both painters, respectively 23 and 21 years-old. Impressed by Ary, young Romantic painter strongly influenced by Théodore Géricault, Lafayette asked him to deliver drawing lessons to his daughters and grand-daughters. He quickly became the general's favourite painter and was given the opportunity to portray him six times and have many of Lafayette's family members and friends pose for him. Invited by President James Monroe to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of the American Nation, Lafayette left France in August 1824 and initiated a 13 month tour in America. His immense popularity on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean suddenly dawned on him and he was welcomed with great enthusiasm in each city which he visited. To thank him for his contribution to the War of Independence, he was awarded the sum of $200,000 and a township of land located in Tallahassee, Florida by the U.S. Congress. On December 10th, 1824, he became the first foreign dignitary to address the nation from the Congressional tribune. The same day, he presented a full length portrait of himself by Ary Scheffer to the House of Representatives. In 1857, this portrait would be hung in the new House of Representatives as the pendant of that of George Washington by John Vanderlyn. Upon his return to France Lafayette decided to redecorate the main salon of La Grange and exhibit souvenirs of his American friends and exploits. He thus created a "virtual pantheon of the heroes of American democracy" in which one could see Benjamin Franklin, among others, with of course the present portrait of George Washington by Ary Scheffer hanging as a centrepiece.
GEORGE WASHINGTON AND ARY SCHEFFER
For this composition, Ary Scheffer decided to work after Gilbert Stuart, who was one of George Washington's official painters. Washington not being a very cooperative model, Stuart had only three short opportunities to paint him from life. The resulting three versions, which inspired hundreds of copies, were painted between 1795 and 1796. Ary Scheffer chose to work after the Athenaeum portrait, thus called as it was hung for more than a century in the Athenaeum library in Boston (fig. 2). Ary Scheffer's variant is clearly influenced by his immense talent as a portraitist. He was greatly admired by Louis Philippe and was, at the time the art teacher to two of his children. Scheffer places his imaginary model in a much darker background than that in the Stuart portrait, and thus emphasizes the General's strict, yet empathetic face whose blue eyes are also highlighted. The brushwork, although precise, is agile and realistic, as the details of the white scarf suggests Ary Scheffer had the opportunity to depict George Washington one more time, later in 1825. He imagined an Equestrian portrait of George Washington (Rhode Island Museum of Art, 46 x 28,6 cm.). The general is portrayed younger, riding a white horse, in the spirit of Scheffer's mentor, Théodore Géricault. This Portrait of George Washington, which appears at auction for the first time, gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a fascinating and romanesque trans-Atlantic political, military, and artistic dialogue.
Sold at Christies in Paris, France 6/23/10 for $326,086 which includes buyers' premium
END OF SCHOOL Eighteenth-Century
PORTRAIT OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1706-1790)
Three-quarters, with a blue jacket, white shirt and tie, hair let loose on a dark background
Miniature Oval, 80 x 69 mm., In a gilded bronze decorated with beads and leaves
Marquis de La Fayette, La Grange Castle Bléneau. Clementine Tower Maubourg Baroness Brigode, his granddaughter. Then by descent to the current owners.
Paris, Musée de L'Orangerie, Centenary of Lafayette (1757-1854), Paris, 1934, no. 82. Paris, Archives Nationales, Lafayette, organized with the assistance of the National Committee for the celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of the Marquis de La Fayette, 1957, no. 29.
This follows the prototype miniature by Jean-Baptiste Weyler (see S. Coffin B. Hofstetter, The Gilbert Collection. Portrait Miniatures in Enamel, London, 2000, pp. 111-112)
Sold at Christie's in Paris, France $30,763 6/23/10
NICHOLAS Marcellus Hentz (Versailles, 1797-FLORIDA, 1856)
PORTRAIT OF GEORGE WASHINGTON (1732-1799) GILBERT STUART ACCORDING
Represented three-quarters, wearing a black jacket and white tie, his hair powdered and tied on a black background
Thumbnail square, on ivory, 100 x 80 mm., In a gilt wood frame with a label inscribed "Thumbnail of General WASHINGTON / given by the HENTZE Gal. LAFAYETTE ', the reverse an inscription in pen' Painted from Stuart / by NMHentz / member of the Academy / Natural Sciences of Philadelphia / and the Linnaean Society / New England 'and' the artist supply to donor / of humanity ', and finally an exhibition label bearing the number 180 and containing the entries"
Marquis de La Fayette, La Grange Castle Bléneau; Clementina La Tour Maubourg Baroness Brigode, his granddaughter, and then by descent to the current owners.
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Centennial Exhibition of La Fayette (1757-1834), Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1934, no. 62.
Rhode Island Museum of Art, European Painting and Sculpture, 1770-1937, 1991 60.
Sold at Christie's in Paris, France $14,612 6/23/10
PARASOL EQUESTRIAN GEORGE WASHINGTON
In light wood and beige cotton, topped with a scoop ivory handle adorned with two gold plates (10 or 14 carat) imprinted 'Mount Vernon in 1799, and La Grange in 1825'
Height: 135 cm. (53 1 / 4 in.).
George Washington, first president of the United States of America, Mount Vernon. Marquis de La Fayette, La Grange Castle Bléneau. Clementina de la Tour Maubourg Baroness Brigode, his granddaughter. Then by descent to the current owners.
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Centenary of Lafayette (1757-1834), 1934, no. 72.
Rhode Island Museum of Art, European Painting and Sculpture, 1770-1937, 1991 60.
Sold at Christie's in Paris, France $126,743 6/23/10
LARGE COMMEMORATIVE VASE AND AMERICAN CRYSTAL Piedouche (MILL BAKEWELL, BAKEWELL PAGE AND) THE SIZE AND SERIOUS early nineteenth century signed and dated on the base of the bowl Bakewell Bakewell Pittsburgh Page 1825 or 1829. Ovoid shape, wide flared neck, decorated with carved on the face of a view of the castle of La Grange Bléneau in a cartridge set against a background of geometric motifs carved peaks and diamonds, pass concentric spirals and geometric bands alternating the domed pedestal carved with spirals and concentric geometric patterns alternated; bowl restored some missing, brightness and small chips to foot
Height: 53 cm.
From a pair offered to the Marquis de Lafayette on his last trip to the United States and then kept at the Chateau La Grange Bléneau. Clementine by descent of the Tour Maubourg Brigode Baroness, her granddaughter, then to the current owners.
Chicago World Fair, Souvenir of the Franco-American War of Independence, 1893, no. 67.
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Centenaire de La Fayette (1757-1834), 1934, no. 236, presented with his engraved for an eagle.
Sold at Christies in Paris, France 6/23/10 for $267,022