JAMES SHARPLES (1751/2-1811)
JAMES SHARPLES (1751/2-1811)

George Washington

JAMES SHARPLES (1751/2-1811)
George Washington
backboards hand-inscribed in ink, General Washington/ by James Sharples/ 1796; typed paper label, Original wood backing./ Paper labels removed and filed separately/ Note burned-in inscription above center/ of wood backing./ April 1969; printed paper label of Childs Gallery, Boston detailing provenance
pastel on paper
9 ½ x 7 ¾ in.
executed 1796-1801
James Randall Lake (1851-1925), St. Louis, Missouri, Washington D.C., New York City, and Maplewood, New Jersey 
William Macbeth, Inc., New York, by purchase from above 
Charles Henry Hart (1847-1918), by purchase from above, November 1910 
Herbert Lee Pratt (1871-1945), New York City and Glen Cove, Long Island, by purchase from above 
Harriet B. Pratt (d. 1978) (m. 1923 Lawrence B. Van Ingen; m. 1938 Donald Fairfax Bush), New York, daughter 
Childs Gallery, Boston 
Charles Henry Hart, Historical Descriptive and Critical Catalogue of the Works of American Artists in Collection of Herbert L. Pratt, Glen Cove, L.I. (New York, 1917), p. 91, no. 41.  
Theodore Bolton, “James Sharples,” Art in America, vol. XI, no. 3 (April 1923), p. 140, no. 60.  
Joseph Dillway Sawyer, Washington, vol. 2 (New York, 1927), p. 448. 
Katharine McCook Knox, The Sharples: Their Portraits of George Washington and His Contemporaries (New Haven, 1930), p. 87, no. 40. 
John Hill Morgan and Mantle Fielding, The Life Portraits of Washington and Their Replicas (Philadelphia, 1931), p. 407, no. 21.  
Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800, no. J.675.715, online edition, www.pastellists.com, accessed December 10, 2020.  
Frick Art Reference Library, ref. 257-4a. 
New York, The Grolier Club, Washington Bi-Centennial Exhibition, December 1931-January 1932.

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Lot Essay

Stuart is the great original of the First President of the U.S., Peale of the Colonial Officer, Sharpless of the man.
-George Washington Parke Custis (1781-1857).

Writing shortly before his death, George Washington Parke Custis shared his opinions on the merits of several of the portraits of his step-grandfather and adopted father. The 1796 picture in crayon by Sharples, he noted, was “the finest and purest likeness of the Chief” and “the best likeness of the man extant” (Letters, George W.P. Custis to T.W.C. Moore, June 6 and July 21, 1857, transcribed in “George Washington Parke Custis’s Opinion of Portraits of Washington,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 18, no. 1 (1894), pp. 82-84). The image was also popular in the late 1790s when Sharples sold numerous replicas of his original 1796 portrait, charging $15 for the profile format seen here. The portrait offered here descended along with a Sharples portrait of Alexander Hamilton and the first owner of the portrait of Hamilton in the following lot also appears to have owned a Sharples of Washington. This suggests that at least on some occasions, Sharples sold Washington-Hamilton portraits in pairs, perhaps at a slight discount in price.

The earliest known owner of this work is James Randall Lake (1851-1925), who sold this portrait, along with a Sharples portrait of Hamilton, for a total of $540 in 1910 to the Macbeth Galleries. Born and died in St. Louis, Missouri, Lake worked in Washington D.C. and New York City as a clerk in the Treasury Department and later as a Customs official and lawyer. In 1895, he married Elizabeth Sayres (1863-1911) of Jamaica, New York and soon thereafter the couple moved to Maplewood, New Jersey. It is possible that these portraits descended in her family as her great-grandfather, Isaac Sayre (1762-1842), served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. After acquiring the two Sharples portraits from Lake, Macbeth Galleries sold them for a $60 profit to collector and scholar Charles Henry Hart (1847-1918), who then sold the Hamilton to Alexander Smith Cochran and the Washington portrait offered here to Herbert L. Pratt (1871-1945). A major figure in the oil industry and head of the Standard Oil Company, Pratt amassed a large art collection with a focus on portraits and miniatures. In 1937, he was elected a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and upon his death in 1945, a large part of his collection was bequeathed to his alma mater, Amherst College. The portrait offered here descended to his daughter and was later sold by her descendants to the Boston firm Childs Gallery. See Macbeth Gallery Records, Box 104, Folder 1: Cash Books 1910-1912, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; Theodore M. Banta, Sayre Family (New York, 1901), p. 151.

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