Lot 3: Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828)
by Keno Auctions
January 31, 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828) George Washington Oil on canvas 28 ½ x 24 11/16 inches Estimate: $150,000-250,000 Stuart painted three distinct life portraits of Washington in Philadelphia between 1794 and 1796, which subsequently served as models for further replicas. The Lansdowne portrait, thought to have been commissioned by wealthy Philadelphia merchant William Bingham as a gift for William Petty, the first Marquis of Lansdowne, shows Washington at full-length with his right hand out in gesture. Commissioned by Martha Washington for Mount Vernon but never finished, the Athenaeum portrait reveals only a bust-length portrayal of Washington with his left shoulder forward. The Vaughan type, named for Philadelphia merchant John Vaughan, depicts a waist-length view of Washington with his right side facing forward.1 Long believed to be the result of the first sitting with the president, the Vaughan portrait served as the model for the portrait featured in this sale. Stuart’s treatment of the background’s red tones, the carefully added details around the mouth and eyes, and even the shirt ruffle, reveal nearly identical similarities between this portrait and the Vaughan Washington. Although cut down slightly since its creation, the portrait has lost very little in terms of height and width, as it is slightly larger than some of Stuart’s other Washington portraits. On April 20, 1795, Gilbert Stuart compiled “a list of gentlemen who are to have copies of the Portrait of the President of the United States.” Although this original list is presumably no longer extant, Stuart’s daughter Jane later published a direct copy in 1876.2 Incorrectly spelled as “Mr. Necklin,” the owner of this portrait, Philip Nicklin, is listed among the names of prominent patrons such as Benjamin West, Viscount Cremorne, John Jay and John Vaughan. A wealthy merchant in Philadelphia, Nicklin and his wife Julianna commissioned Stuart to paint portraits of their own likenesses in 1795, along with a copy of the Vaughan portrait.3 Strong ties to fellow members of this list and Washington most likely prompted their interest, as Julianna’s family was one “with which he (Washington) was most intimate in Philadelphia.”4 Julianna’s father, Chief Justice Benjamin Chew, had a lifelong friendship with Washington, even after Chew openly opposed the Declaration of Independence. In a letter Washington wrote to Stuart on April 11, 1796, he claims that he is “under promise to Mrs. Bingham to sit for you tomorrow at nine o’clock.”5 Julianna’s own sister, Harriet, supposedly accompanied Washington to provide conversation and a source of amusement.6 The “Mrs. Bingham” refers to the wife of William Bingham, a friend of the Chew-Nicklin family and fellow Philadelphia merchant, and the commissioner of Stuart’s Lansdowne portrait. 1 Barratt, Carrie Rebora and Ellen G. Miles. Gilbert Stuart. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004. 166-176. 2 Stuart, Jane. “The Stuart Portraits of Washington.” Scribner’s Monthly, 12, no.3 (July 1876): 373. 3 Lawrence, Park. Gilbert Stuart: An Illustrated Descriptive List of His Works, Vol. II. New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1926. 551. 4 Griswold, Rufus. The Republican Court, or, American Society in the Days of Washington. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1856. 329. 5 Stuart, 374. 6 Griswold, 355.
Condition Report: "The surface of the painting has a recent surface coating of synthetic resin varnish overlying a thin layer of slightly yellowed natural resin varnish...The paint layer is in a wonderful state of preservation with almost no abrasion and very minor restored damages...The painting is glue lined and stretched onto an oval replaced stretcher...There are two exposed small filled losses with some remaining old overpaint on the fillings that were likely exposed when the painting was cleaned in 1945. The fillings with some retouch color on the fillings include a 3/16 x 3/4 inch vertical filling on the right side of the face near the hairline and two 1/8 inch diameter fills on the upper shirt collar adjacent to the coat...” [The spandrels of the painting were removed at some point in the late 19th or early 20th century. However, it is interesting that the height and width are still up to ½ larger than other Vaughan-Type portraits of Washington and up to ¾ inch smaller thank others. “…There are no remnants of the original tacking edges present."
Provenance: Philip Nicklin (1752-1806) His name is included on original list of commissioned portraits. On April 20, 1795, Gilbert Stuart compiled “…a list of gentlemen who are to have copies of the Portrait of the President of the United States.” Philip Nicklin’s name appears on the list as “Mr. Necklin” (See 1795 List from George C. Mason’s “The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart”). Mr. Nicklin’s wife, Julianna, was the daughter of Chief Justice Benjamin Chew, a close personal friend of George Washington; Estate of Julianna Nicklin (1765-1845), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1845; Chester Harding, Boston, Massachusetts, 1845 (acquired from the Nicklin Estate Sale); Moses Kimball, Boston, Massachusetts (acquired from the above) for display in 1849 in his recently completed “Boston Museum” Margaret Kimball, Boston, Massachusetts (his daughter and sold: Leonard’s Auction Rooms); Alonzo H. Evans, Boston, Massachusetts (acquired from the above sale); William E. Nickerson, Boston, Massachusetts (gift from the above); Torrey Little, Boston, 1938 (acquired from the family of the above); Robert B. Campbell, Dealer in Paintings and Prints, Boston, Massachusetts circa 1940; Count Ivan N. Podgoursky, New York, February 5, 1945 (acquired from the above); Inherited by Mary Ermolaev, wife of Count Podgoursky, in 1962; Sold by Mrs. Ermolaev to her son Vladimir Podgoursky sometime after 1962; Estate of Vladimir Podgoursky, 2011
Dimensions: 28 ½ x 24 11/16 inches
Artist or Maker: Gilbert Stuart
Exhibited: Boston, Massachusetts, Boston Museum 1846 Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Portrait Panorama: An Exhibition of Portraits by Artists of Six Centuries, September-October 1947, no. 11
Medium: Oil on Canvas