This is a 1851 first edition mezzotint engraving by J. Andrews and H.W. Smith -- after the original painting by Chester Harding.
Daniel Webster was a Senator from Massachusetts and twice Secretary of State -- just prior to the Civil War. Webster was known for his nationalistic views, his effectiveness as a speaker, and his leadership role within the Second Party System. This striking mezzotint was created from a famous painting by Chester Harding, which now hangs in the Boston Anthenaeum. Harding began his career painting portraits, and traveled throughout the United States to paint. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Design and even made a name for himself in London prior to settling down in Boston. Harding painted numerous portraits of prominent men and women during the mid-nineteenth century, including James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams.
In the Grand Manner tradition, Chester Harding shows Webster standing in an impressive interior with the requisite hanging drapery in the background, an element of the genre that enhances the image’s theatricality. Since Webster was known for his oratorical talents, this setting is especially appropriate here; indeed, in his portrait of Webster, Harding suggests, through posture and gesture, that the Senator is in the act of speaking. Meanwhile, as a way of making a natural link to the greatness of the recent American past, Harding opens the composition to Webster’s right where, in the background, we see the British sculptor Francis Chantrey’s famous marble sculpture of George Washington, which had been unveiled in 1826 in the Massachusetts State House, where it remains. By making the sculpture an important element of the portrait, Harding not only equates Webster’s talents and contributions to those of Washington, but he also links the senator directly to his home state by giving him a familiar and identifiable venue for his oration.
Engraved by J. Andrews & H. W. Smith and printed by E. H. Ball
Framed Size: 32 1/4" H x 23 1/4" W x 2 1/2" D