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Thomas Sully, ‘Portrait of Commodore James Biddle,’ est. $30,000-$50,000

Biddle descendant’s treasures enrich Doyle’s May 4 sale

Thomas Sully, ‘Portrait of Commodore James Biddle,’ est. $30,000-$50,000
Thomas Sully, ‘Portrait of Commodore James Biddle,’ est. $30,000-$50,000

NEW YORK –  On Wednesday, May 4, at 10 am Eastern time, Doyle will hold an auction of American Paintings, Furniture & Decorative Arts. The sale showcases 18th- and 19th-century American furniture and decorative arts, including ceramics, mirrors, folk art, Chinese Export porcelain and rugs. This auction category is Doyle’s premier venue for 19th- and early 20th-century American paintings, including Hudson River School landscapes, Western and Regional art, still lifes, portraits, nautical scenes and folk paintings. The May 4 sale will also offer selections from the collection of Christine Biddle Wainwright, as well as Audubon, Currier & Ives and topographical prints. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

The Christine Biddle Wainwright Collection

Comprising more than 100 lots of silver, paintings, furniture and signed documents, the Christine Biddle Wainwright collection offers unique insight into American history. The earliest items in the collection relate to Nicholas Biddle, who was born in Philadelphia in 1750 and became one of the first Captains of the United States Navy. A remarkable offering is Biddle’s 1775 commission, issued and signed by Benjamin Franklin as President of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety to captain a ship named the Franklin after the great printer, scientist and statesman.

August 1775 Benjamin Franklin-signed document appointing Nicholas Biddle captain of the Franklin, est. $30,000-$50,000
1775 Benjamin Franklin-signed document appointing Nicholas Biddle captain of the Franklin, est. $30,000-$50,000

Also offered is a 1777 letter from John Hancock to Captain Biddle, ordering him to sail to France. Killed in 1778 in a Revolutionary War sea battle off Barbados, Nicholas Biddle is a towering figure of American naval history: testament to this are the four United States Navy ships that have been named in his honor.

 October 1777 signed naval orders sent to Captain Nicholas Biddle by John Hancock, est. $10,000-$15,000

October 1777 signed naval orders sent to Captain Nicholas Biddle by John Hancock, est. $10,000-$15,000

With the arrival of peace, the Biddle family thrived in Philadelphia. A 1787 document also signed by Benjamin Franklin grants Charles Biddle, Nicholas Biddle’s brother, who had served with him on board the Randolph, several lots of land in city center Philadelphia. Charles Biddle and his wife Hanna parented 10 children, including Commodore James Biddle, whose 1839 portrait by Thomas Sully is included in the collection. Thomas Sully is one of the most notable early 19th-century American painters from Philadelphia. Also offered is Sully’s copy of Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Alexander James Dallas as well as a work known as Fancy Portrait of a Girl. Later 19th- and early 20th-century portraits of family members memorialize this growing, prosperous American family.

 Thomas Sully, ‘Fancy Portrait of a Girl,’ est. $4,000-$6,000

Thomas Sully, ‘Fancy Portrait of a Girl,’ est. $4,000-$6,000

As noted, the naval and military service to the United States of the Biddle family is distinguished. Another child of Charles Biddle, Thomas Biddle, was a hero of the War of 1812, serving under Zebulon Pike in Ontario. Thomas Biddle settled in St. Louis where he engaged in local politics and unfortunately was killed in a duel (as was his political opponent Congressman Spencer Pettis – they shot each other from a distance of only five feet). Of great beauty are a pair of presentation American Federal silver memorial footed vases by silversmiths Fletcher & Gardiner of Philadelphia, inscribed from Thomas to his brother James Biddle on the date of the ill-fated duel. A mourning pin worn by Mrs. Thomas Biddle is also offered in the sale.

Pair of American silver two-handled vases by Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner of Philadelphia, est. $7,000-$10,000
Pair of American silver two-handled vases by Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner of Philadelphia, est. $7,000-$10,000

One of the most notable early Biddles was Nicholas, nephew of the Revolutionary captain, who went on to become an important financier and banker of the early Republic. Nicholas Biddle married Jane Margaret Craig in 1811 and came to live at the country estate built by her father and expanded by Benjamin Latrobe, known as Andalusia. In the collection, a pair of classical tiger maple caned scrolled armchairs and a Federal pine two door-cupboard are believed to have originated there.

Circa-1775 Philadelphia Chippendale carved walnut dressing table, est. $15,000-$25,000
Circa-1775 Philadelphia Chippendale carved walnut dressing table, est. $15,000-$25,000

Another furniture highlight in the sale is a circa-1775 Philadelphia Chippendale walnut dressing table. In all, the Christine Biddle Wainwright collection offers the finest Americana with an impeccable provenance.

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