Portrait of Important British Advocate for American Independence in Sotheby Auction
Jean Laurent Mosnier’s “Portrait of William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, 1sssstttt Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805), Seated Three Quarter-Length In General’s Uniform With Garter Ribbon, The Lesser George Tied To His Sash,” will be sold at auction at Sotheby’s in London on July 7. Lansdowne, acknowledged by the President George Washington as someone to whom the new United States of America owed a great deal, is estimated to bring £200,000-300,000 ($320,000-$480,000).
LONDON – A portrait of Lord Lansdowne, acknowledged by the President George Washington as someone to whom the new United States of America owed a great deal, will be among the offerings at the July 7 Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale at Sotheby’s. The painting, by Jean Laurent Mosnier, is estimated to bring £200,000-300,000 ($320,000-$480,000) at auction (not including buyer’s premium).
“Lord Lansdowne was a fantastically enlightened man as well as a patron of the arts. A great mind and political figure of his day, his contribution to British-American relations was extraordinary,” said Emmeline Hallmark, head of Sotheby’s London British Paintings Department.” This portrait—with the unwieldy title ‘Portrait of William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, 1st Marquess of Landsdowne (1737-1805), Seated Three Quarter-Length In General’s Uniform With Garter Ribbon, The Lesser George Tied To His Sash’—encapsulates the charisma of this unique character.”
In 1791 Washington said: “This country has a grateful recollection of the agency your Lordship had in settling the dispute between Great Britain and it.” Of the numerous portraits of Shelburne—a most distinguished politician, patron, husband and father—this is considered by many as the most charismatic, commanding and yet intimate; painted when he was at the climax of his career it encapsulates the power and character of this extraordinary man. Shelburne commissioned this portrait from the leading French portrait artist of the Royal family, the Paris Salon and Académie Royal Mosnier, who had recently arrived in England as an exile from France escaping the turmoil of the French Revolution.
Shelburne compiled a report which became the basis for the Proclamation of 1763, issued by Lord Halifax, Shelburne’s successor; territories for the new colonies were defined and opened for settlement, courts of justice were established to operate as closely as possible to the laws of England, an Indian reservation was established which forbade settlement unless permission was granted by the Crown, licensed trade was opened and escaped criminals were seized. This was one of the most enlightened forms of ministerial doctrine to emerge from the evolution of American Colonial policy. In July 1782, Shelburne formed his own administration, and on becoming Prime Minister, immediately turned his attention to seeking peace with America.
At home Shelburne espoused liberal theories which were advanced for their time, including parliamentary and constitutional reform, Roman Catholic emancipation and religious equality, and surrounded himself with the greatest minds of the day, including Benjamin Franklin, David Hume, Richard Price, Jeremy Bentham, Joseph Priestly, Robert Adam and the Abbe Morellet, among others. He was one of the most munificent patrons of the arts of his time, commissioning works by Reynolds and Gainsborough, as well as Mosnier and others, including numerous literary figures.
Mosnier had arrived in London at the beginning of 1791. In the finesse of its execution and sheer attention to detail, this portrait exemplifies the essence of Parisian sophistication. Mosnier’s sheer technical brilliance (perfected on a small scale earlier in his career as a painter of portrait miniatures), was also admired by other esteemed sitters who commissioned their portraits at this time, including George Brydges, Admiral Lord Rodney (National Maritime Museum), Lieutenant-Colonel Richardson (National Army Museum), Anne Dundas, Mrs Mary Henry Drummond with Son (Alnwick Castle Collection) amongst others.
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