MILFORD, Conn. – Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers will offer two famous portraits of President George Washington and First Lady Martha Washington at an auction scheduled for Thursday, October 27th. . Prized by collectors from the time they were painted, the portraits disappeared from written accounts in the 1920s. They were only recently rediscovered in a private collection.
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.
The two military portraits were sold at auction in 2008 and 2009 for $303,000 and $336,000, respectively. One was acquired by the Yale University Art Gallery. The Meredith-Moreau-Pratt miniature of President Washington, to be offered by Shannon’s, depicts him in civilian dress. 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 portrait of Washington 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.
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. Since then it has been secured in a private collection, unseen by the public until now.
On the back side of Mrs. Washington’s portrait there’s a plaited lock of hair. This was a common way to remember a loved one who was 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, close to New Haven and right off I-95. Both the auction and preview are open to the public. For more information, you may visit Shannon’s website, at www.shannons.com.
Shannon's Fine Art Auctioneers
Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers ~ Established 1997. Shannon’s prides itself on providing each client with personalized service, educating consignors and buyers on fine art, the auction process, and market trends. Spring and Fall Fine Art Auctions: Each year, Shannon’s hosts two cataloged fine art auctions in the Spring and Fall. These sales feature 200+ lots of paintings, drawings, fine prints, and sculpture from the 19th century through Contemporary. Winter and Summer Online Fine Art Sales: Shannon’s also hosts online auctions of Fine Art in January and June each year. These sales are hosted exclusively online with in-person previews available. Periodically, Shannon’s hosts online auctions of collections from single private owners or corporate collections. Our specialist areas include American Art, European Art, Modern Art, Contemporary Art, Fine Prints, Sculpture, Impressionism, and more. New England’s Premier Fine Art Auction House: Shannon’s is aggressively positioned to compete with New York City auction houses in the middle market. Shannon’s offers a bank of 20+ phone lines, online bidding, and has an app available to buyers. Targeted emails, full color catalogs, an extensive mailings list and a user-friendly website attract buyers from across the United States and internationally. Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers opened in 1997 as New England’s premier fine art auction house. Founded by partners Gene and Mary Anne Shannon, the firm quickly established an international reputation for integrity, knowledge of fine art, and personalized service. In 1998, their daughter, Sandra Germain joined the firm bringing her extensive background in business, marketing, and fine art. In 2014, Sandra assumed the position of Managing Partner. Shannon’s team of employees continues to provide personalized, responsive service to their clients that is unsurpassed in the auction market.