This exquisite autographed collage celebrates two of our country’s greatest leaders and political minds, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The collage is composed of two war-dated signatures: a 1778 conclusion of a manuscript letter signed by Washington and an autographed signed noted by Lincoln dated October 10, 1861.
The George Washington signature features a large and boldly signed autograph. It is a conclusion of a manuscript letter, penned “I am Sir, Your most obed:nt” and signed “Go. Washington”. Beneath the bold signature, and in another hand, reads: “The Signature of the Father of his Country was made/ in July 1778.-/ Portsmouth April 1818” and signed in pencil “Joseph T. Canon.”
The summer of 1778 was a time of enormous optimism for George Washington and other supporters of the American cause. The welcome news of a French alliance in May had been followed by the British evacuation of Philadelphia in mid-June and capped by what the Americans believed to be a glorious victory at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28. Washington and his General John Sullivan turned their focus to British forces in New York City and Rhode Island. Weakened by the loss of significant troop number in the march through New Jersey, there was at last a fighting change that the British might abandon their remaining strongholds at New York City and Newport for Canada or the West Indies. Washington stationed his army at White Plains, NY and sent Sullivan to Newport in the attempt to take Rhode Island, where he could cooperate with the French navy in joint operations against the British.
Below the Washington signature is an autographed signed note by Abraham Lincoln. The note reads, in full: "Sec. of War, please see Col. Barret, and see if you can not agree with him about taking his Cavalry Reg't to Kansas & the Indian frontier." The note is signed at bottom right “A. Lincoln” and dated at bottom left “Oct. 10, 1861.”
This note was intended for Colonel James A. Barret of Springfield, Illinois. Barret was the commander of the Tenth Illinois Cavalry. The Tenth Illinois Calvary was rallied into service at Camp Butler, Illinois on November 25, 1861. They trained at Quincy and in 1862, the regiment made part of the Army of the Frontier. They saw their first major action in December or that year, outside of Prairie Grove Arkansas. They also aided the taking of Little Rock and Arkansas Post during the summer of 1863.
Interestingly, Lincoln had dealt with Barret nearly ten years prior as a lawyer on behalf of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad. When Barret refused to pay his pledge for his 30 shares of stock after the railroad changed its planned route, subsequently depreciating Barret’s land, the company sued. Lincoln’s case asserted that Barret was indeed a stockholder of the company and that the Alton and Sangamon Railroad, not bound by its original charter, had the right to sue for delinquent payment. Lincoln’s victory established him as one of the most successful Illinois practitioners of railroad law.
Framed at left and right of the autographs are original pencil-signed Jacques Reich etched portraits of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Reich completed the portraits in the early 20th century. Reich was Hungarian-born portrait etcher, active mainly in the United States. After studying at the National Academy of Design in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Reich established a studio in New York City in 1885. Working on private commissions and portrait designs for Appelton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography and Scribner’s Cylodaedia of Painters and Paintings, Reich honed his portraiture technique and skill. In the early 1890s, Reich began working on copper plates, etching a series of 14 portraits of American and English artists, writers, and poets.
Reich completed a series of etched portraits titled “Famous Americans”, which number 25 subjects, and include Hamilton, Franklin, Carnegie, Curtis, Roosevelt, Washington, Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, as displayed here.
The Lincoln portrait (left) is a beautifully executed etching. Reich based his portrait off the famous Matthew Brady photograph of Lincoln. The photograph was taken in 1864, as the nation was in the final throes of the Civil War. Lincoln is depicted from the shoulders up, in partial profile, and wears a black topcoat, white shirt, and black bowtie. His brow is slightly furrowed and his expression collected. The overall result is a stoic, insightful and skillful rendering of our 16th President. The bottom paper margin includes a pencil signature of Jacques Reich. The print is inscribed “Remarque Proof, No. 49” in light pencil.
The George Washington etched portrait (right) is based off one of the most celebrated depictions of George Washington. The original portrait was painted by colonial painter Gilbert Stuart, and was his second portrait of Washington. Washington first sat for the artist in 1795 and the resulting oil portrait, nicknamed the Vaughan portrait, was widely successful. In the summer of 1796, after seeing Stuart’s first oil portrait of Washington, Martha Washington commissioned a pair of portraits of herself and the president from Stuart, which she planned to display at Mount Vernon.
The president, who famously abhorred sitting for portraits, didn’t fare well during this second sitting with Stuart. The artist noted, “When I painted him, he had just had a set of false teeth inserted, which accounts for the constrained expression so noticeable about the mouth and lower part of the face.” Nevertheless, the portrait shows none of Washington’s annoyance or discomfort. Rather, it is Washington’s direct and purposeful gaze that makes this depiction so striking. Stuart painted a dignified leader, bathed in a warm glow. Although this is only a head-and-shoulder view, the artist managed to convey Washington’s impressive six-foot-two-inch frame and reserved, stately bearing.
The resulting portrait was Stuart’s favorite image. As a result, and to Martha’s dismay, he purposely left the original painting unfinished so that he could use it as a model for later paintings. The painting has since become one of the most celebrated paintings of Washington ever painted. The painting served as the basis for the engraving on the one-dollar bill. John Neal, an early nineteenth-century writer and art critic, wrote, “Though a better likeness of him were shown to us, we should reject it; for, the only idea that we now have of George Washington, is associated with Stuart’s Washington.”
The bottom margin of the Reich etched portrait features both an etched signature “Jacques Reich aquaforti” and a larger pencil signature by Reich. “Aqua Forti” is a Latin term for nitric acid, the acid used to etch metal printing plates. “A.q” or “Aquaforti” on a print denotes the name of the etcher or engraver. The etching also has a copyright publication line at top left, indicating the print was published in 1902.
The two signatures are artfully displayed together at center in an inset window with gold beaded fillet. The two portraits are matted with acid-free tan mats and displayed within a gold fillet. The elements are presented in a custom hand-built black and gold wooden frame. All framing elements are archival and up to conservation standards. Framed dimensions: 36”H x 60” W x 3” D.