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Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington from the Met’s collection offered at Christie’s Jan. 18

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NEW YORK — Christie’s has announced its annual sale of Important Americana, to take place on Thursday, January 18. The sale features a wide range of American fine art, furniture, folk art, and silver, as well as Chinese Export porcelain and American ceramics. The catalog is now available for preview at LiveAuctioneers.

Leading the sale is a lifetime depiction of George Washington by the first president’s greatest portraitist, Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This magisterial picture is one of the most significant of the artist’s renditions based on Washington’s first sitting with Stuart in 1795. Named after one of the early owners, these Vaughan-type portraits show the sitter facing to the right, and of the 14 known to survive today, only four are in private hands. It is estimated at $1.5 million-$2.5 million.

The example being offered in January was among the earliest of this group and was owned in England by the Philips family, Manchester-area textile merchants who had supported the American cause during the Revolution.

In addition to the magnificent Vaughan-type portrait, the auction includes a significant group of works depicting other Founding Fathers, including pieces from direct descendants of Benjamin Franklin and powerful images of Washington by Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860). 

Peale’s portrait of Washington dates to 1852, when he was commissioned by Enoch Dean of Philadelphia. Washington is portrayed in his military uniform as commander of American forces during the Revolutionary War. The oil on canvas is estimated at $300,000-$500,000.

Thomas Sully (1783-1872) and Jane Cooper Sully (1807-1877) worked to evoke the style of David Martin in this 1834 portrait of Benjamin Franklin. The work was likely acquired by either Benjamin Franklin Pepper (1879-1918) of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, great-great-great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin, or his father, William Pepper (1843-1898) of Philadelphia. It has remained in the Franklin family ever since, and is coming to the market for the first time in a century. It carries an estimate of $100,000-$200,000.

Cigar-store American Indian carved figures are a common sight in the auction world. Less so is the racetrack tout, also referred to contemporaneously as a sporting dude. This example, with faint CIGARS and TOBACCO lettering on its base, is unattributed but very similar in style and design to examples in the Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and Heritage Museum in Massachusetts. Dudes were extremely popular figures at tobacconists of the period, but few are seen at auction. This example is estimated at $300,000-$500,000.
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Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington (Vaughan type), estimated at $1.5 million-$2.5 million at Christie’s.
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Rembrandt Peale portrait of George Washington, estimated at $300,000-$500,000 at Christie’s.
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Thomas and Jane Cooper Sully portrait of Benjamin Franklin after David Martin, estimated at $100,000-$200,000 at Christie’s.
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Carved and painted racetrack tout trade figure, estimated at $300,000-$500,000 at Christie’s.
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Crowninshield family Chippendale mahogany bombé chest of drawers, estimated at $100,000-$150,000 at Christie’s.
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