Lot 1: George Washington, ALS as president signed “G. Washington,”
12th October 2016
ALS as president signed “G. Washington,” one page both sides, 7.25 x 8.75, July 3, 1792. Letter to Virginia Governor Henry Lee, in full: “Your letter of the 20th Ulto. was presented to me yesterday by Mr. [William A.] Williams—who, as professional man, may or may not be, for ought I know to the contrary, a luminary of the first magnitude. But to be frank, and I hope you will not be displeased with me for being so, I am so heartily tired of the attendance, which from one cause or another, I have bestowed on these kind of people, that it is now more than two year since I have resolved to sit no more, for any of them; and have adhered to it; except in instances where it has been requested by public bodies, or for a particular purpose (not of the Painters) and could not, without offence, be refused. I have been led to make this resolution for another reason besides the irksomeness of sitting, and the time I loose by it—which is, that these productions have, in my estimation, been made use of as a sort of tax upon individuals, by being engraved—and that badly—and hawked, or advertised for Sale.” Addressed on the reverse of the second integral page in another hand. In fine condition, with professional repairs and reinforcement to areas of paper loss. Despite initially refusing to sit for American artist William Joseph Williams in July of 1792, Washington finally agreed at the behest of officers at the Alexandria Masonic Lodge No. 22, where Washington served as Charter Worshipful Master. In a 1793 letter, officials affirmed that the portrait would be ‘a source of the most refined gratification the tracing out and contemplating the various ornaments of his character in the resemblance of his person.’ Completed in 1794, Williams’s depiction remains lauded for its careful representation of Washington as a Virginia past master. In addition to the adorned Masonic regalia and jewels, Williams captured the president’s likeness down to the smallest detail, such as the scar on his left cheek, the assorted smallpox scars on his nose and cheeks, and the mole below his right ear. Ex. Walter R. Benjamin Autographs, January 13, 1976; sale 836, lot H-732.
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