Washington’s 1795 Thanksgiving proclamation and Rembrandt school painting triumphed at Sarasota

Broadside of George Washington’s 1795 Thanksgiving Day proclamation, which sold for $37,000 ($47,360 with buyer’s premium) at Sarasota Estate Auction.

SARASOTA, Fla. – A printing of George Washington’s 1795 Thanksgiving Day proclamation and a Rembrandt School oil sold way above their estimates at Sarasota Estate Auction. Both made five-figure sums as part of the two-day sale on January 20-21. Complete results are available at LiveAuctioneers.

Quite different from the national holiday at harvest time, Washington’s second Thanksgiving Proclamation proposed a day of celebration on February 19, 1795, after the end of the Whiskey Rebellion. The potential schism caused by a violent protest against the whiskey tax imposed in 1791 to pay down the war debt had been quashed without great bloodshed.

This proclamation was published in Gazette of the United States and Daily Evening Advertiser of Philadelphia and other newspapers on January 1, 1795, and it also was issued in several variations as a broadside by the short-lived Secretary of State Edmund Randolf, whose name appears to the very foot of the text.

This 14 by 12in copy, with some tearing to the folds, had been sent through the mail to Rev. Joseph Gosse of Sutton in Worcester County, Massachusetts, with remnants of a red candle wax seal still visible on the envelope. Estimated at $300-$600, it hammered for $37,000 ($47,360 with buyer’s premium).

Far more speculative was the lot that topped day two, a painting credited to the school of Rembrandt van Rijn. Although it is undeniably an image of the 17th-century master in his late 20s, it was not dated in the catalog. Sensing it was better than just a good 19th-century imitation, two bidders pushed it way past the $1,000-$2,000 estimate. It hammered for $49,000 ($62,720 with buyer’s premium). A clue to its provenance may be found in an old ‘Christie’s P’ stamp on the verso.