Lot 505: José Francisco Xavier de Salazar y Mendoza

Neal Auction Company

December 3, 2016, 10:00 AM CST
New Orleans, LA, US
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Description: José Francisco Xavier de Salazar y Mendoza (Mexican/New Orleans, c. 1750-1802), "Portrait of Daniel William Coxe (1769-1852)", 1792, oil on canvas, signed, dated and inscribed "Josef de Salazar America/Pinxit Nueva Orleans/Anno 1792" lower left, "Loan Exhibition of Historical Portraits, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1887" label en verso, 38 1/2 in. x 30 in., antique frame. Provenance: Family of the sitter; by descent. Exh.: Listed in the catalogue for the "Loan Exhibition of Historical Portraits" at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1887, no. 101, p. 29. In the catalogue's introductory note, Charles Henry Hart wrote "This collection of original historical portraits is believed to be the first of the kind ever systematically brought together for exhibition in this country." In addition to the "Daniel W. Coxe" portrait by J. de Salazar, Brinton Coxe loaned family portraits of "Charles S. Coxe, Judge of the District Court, Philadelphia" by H. Inman and "Tench Coxe, Commissioner of Revenue, U.S." by J. Paul. Note: Among Salazar’s oeuvre of portraits exist likenesses of some of the most prominent Louisiana citizens of the late 18th and early 19th century. The men and women he painted lived during a fascinating time in Louisiana history, residing first in Spanish Colonial territory during the turn of the 19th century, then observing the transition of the Louisiana Territory from Spain to France, and finally to America with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Known Salazar works include paintings of bishops, governors, mayors, military officials, and wealthy planters – most of whom were interconnected through business transactions or familial contacts in the vast web of Colonial Louisiana society. A few of Salazar’s sitters, such as Daniel Coxe, did not reside permanently in the New Orleans area, but visited the region and maintained connections there for many years. Born in Philadelphia in 1769, Daniel William Coxe was the brother of Tench Coxe (1755-1824), a merchant and politician who served as a delegate for Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress. The Coxe brothers descended from prominent colonial families with ties to the Founding Fathers. Their grandfather, Tench Francis, Sr. (d. 1758), an attorney in Pennsylvania, was a founding trustee, along with Benjamin Franklin, for the school that would become the University of Pennsylvania. Their great-grandfather, Dr. Daniel Coxe, Sr. (1640-1730), owned lands granting him the nominal title Colonial Governor of West Jersey, and their grandfather, Daniel Coxe, Jr. (1673-1739), traveled to the colonies and founded the American line of the Coxe family in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area. As a young man, Daniel Coxe began his career in his brother Tench’s mercantile firm, and by 1791 he was at the firm of Reed & Forde. On an expedition for that firm to the West Indies and New Orleans in 1791-92, certainly the trip where he sat for this portrait, Coxe made the acquaintance of Daniel Clark, a merchant and dignitary with connections to the Spanish government in Colonial Louisiana. Together, Coxe and Clark mapped trade routes from Mexico to Philadelphia through the Caribbean, and back down the American rivers from Philadelphia to New Orleans, providing an exchange of goods that benefitted each of the port cities where the ships docked. The two men formed a profitable firm together in 1793, and in 1801 they merged with Beverly Chew and Richard Relf, prominent attorneys and merchants in the city. In 1803, before knowledge of the Louisiana Purchase became public, Coxe and Clark began buying lands in Louisiana and Florida, including a tract of land on the Ouachita River that had been granted to the Marquis de Maison Rouge by Governor Carondelet in 1797. During the years surrounding the Louisiana Purchase a sense of instability encompassed the mercantile trade. The Spanish, who controlled the port of New Orleans, openly traded with the United States but imposed hefty fines and tariffs on goods shipped down the Mississippi River. In 1784, Spain closed New Orleans to trade with the United States, and as a result, discussions between the United States and France were held to attempt to negotiate trade laws with the Spanish. Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina successfully treated with Don Manuel Godoy of Spain to define the boundaries of the United States and Spanish colonies, as well as to obtain navigational rights on the Mississippi River and to remove cargo fees for Americans trading in the port of New Orleans. The Treaty of San Lorenzo, or Pinckney’s Treaty, was a major success for the United States. Coxe and Clark, both of whom benefitted greatly from the treaty, are known to have assisted negotiations by gathering intelligence on Spanish trade before the Treaty was ratified and Spanish compliance with the treaty after it came into effect in 1795. Daniel Clark’s ties to the Spanish government were certainly helpful to his mercantile business. However, they also brought him to the periphery of a major United States scandal. Having worked in New Orleans with W.C.C. Claiborne, General James Wilkinson, Pierre Clement de Laussat, and other colonial Louisiana politicians, Clark was in a unique position to observe the behind-the-scenes dealings during the Louisiana Purchase. General Wilkinson’s now well-known treasonous schemes with Aaron Burr to separate from the United States and form an independent union were under dispute in the early 1800s. In an 1809 letter from Clark to Coxe, he mentioned a “pamphlet respecting Wilkinson – Our object is to make known the villainy of that man,” most likely referring to their 1809 publication Proofs of the Corruption of Gen. James Wilkinson, and of his Connexion with Aaron Burr. Although Wilkinson attempted to discredit Clark, the extent of the General’s scheming was not fully realized until historians uncovered more of his personal correspondence after his death, proving Clark’s innocence and Wilkinson’s involvement in many duplicitous activities. After a series of misfortunes and poor investments, Coxe and Clark, whose firm was in great debt, decided to dissolve their partnership. Clark, still working with Chew and Relf, shouldered all of the debts; in exchange, Coxe disavowed any interest in their jointly purchased Louisiana properties. Upon Clark’s death in 1813, he still owed money to multiple creditors, including Coxe. Chew and Relf divided his lands to settle his debts, with Coxe acquiring almost three quarters of the original land grant gifted to the Marquis de Maison Rouge on the Ouachita River. After Daniel Clark’s death, his will was disputed by his daughter, Myra Clark Gaines. Clark’s assets had been left to his mother, Mary Clark, and many legal issues surfaced regarding the vast property he owned. Coxe, Gaines, and Mary Clark, along with the lawyers handling Clark’s estate, Chew and Relf, were involved in multiple lawsuits, including the longest chain of cases in United States History, beginning with W.W. Whitney v. Eleanor O’Bearn, et al, in 1834, and ending with City of New Orleans v. Whitney, in 1891. The case went to the Supreme Court and, although the main participants of the original cases were long deceased, the suit was finally resolved with the City of New Orleans paying just under one million dollars to Gaines’ heirs. One of the most interesting aspects of Salazar’s painting is that its elliptical format is contained within a feigned oval stone molding, in what became known—a full generation after this picture—as the ‘porthole technique.’ Many of Salazar’s contemporaries, such as Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) and Francis Cotes (1726-1770), applied similar treatments to their portraits. The tromp l’oeil oval serves to highlight the distinguished visage of Daniel Coxe. Salazar’s treatment of the brushwork on the face and the lace at Coxe’s neck and wrists is indicative of his distinctive style, although the inclusion of a natural background is a rarity. The illustrious figure Salazar painted perfectly fits this prominent citizen; Coxe’s contributions to the mercantile trade and his aide in establishing trade routes and securing beneficial trade laws were certainly a boon to the newly established United States and Louisiana Territory. Ref.: Bradley, William Asp, ed. and Jared William Bradley. Interim Appointment: W. C. C. Claiborne Letter Book, 1804-1805. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2002; Clark, Daniel, and Daniel Coxe. Proofs of the Corruption of Gen. James Wilkinson, and of his Connexion with Aaron Burr. Philadelphia: Wm. Hall, Jun. & Geo. W. Pierie, printers, 1809; Johnson, Allen and Dumas Malone. “Daniel Clark.” Dictionary of American Biography. Volume IV. New York: Scribner’s, 1930; Keyes, Pam. “Beverly Chew: The Man Behind the Curtain in Early New Orleans.” Nov. 19, 2015. http://www.historiaobscura.com/beverly-chew-the-man-behind-the-curtain-in-early-new-orleans. Accessed October 4, 2016; Trogdon, Jo Ann. The Unknown Travels and Dubious Pursuits of William Clark. Columbia: University of Missouri, 2015; Series 245, Daniel W. Coxe Papers (Collection 2091), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
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