See also : US Independence George I-III Tribal Oceania Political writing Louis XV-XVI
1776 Portrait of Omai by Reynolds
2001 SOLD for £ 10.3M by Sotheby's
His arrival in London in October 1774 was a social event. Omai is handsome. He has a quick wit and good looks which remain exotic. Celebrated like a prince by the aristocracy, this son of a Polynesian peasant is in England the first living symbol of the myth of the "noble savage" which echoes Rousseau's "bon sauvage".
Joshua Reynolds, the founding president of the Royal Academy, is a painter of worldly portraits. In 1776 at the exhibition of the Academy, he displays among other paintings a portrait of Omai, oil on canvas 230 x 140 cm. The young man is standing in a proud attitude. The clothes are luxurious.
This portrait somehow inaugurates the orientalist painting and its idealism. Reynolds achieves a spectacular effect, without seeking realism. The flowing robe is inspired by the Roman toga and the oriental turban is nothing Polynesian. The landscape behind him is Greek, with a few palm trees.
This artwork is unique in the art of Reynolds, who probably created it especially without commission for the exhibition of 1776 and kept it in his studio until his death. It was sold for £ 10.3M by Sotheby's on November 29, 2001. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Omai returned to Polynesia with Cook's third voyage.
1776 Tygers at Play by Stubbs
2014 SOLD for £ 7.7M by Sotheby's
Images of horses were welcomed by the English aristocracy. Stubbs was a gifted painter. He was the only artist capable of applying the theme of the animal as a specialty of major art.
In London, menageries are in the trend. Visitors dream of the distant lands from where the wild beasts have come. As early as 1762 Stubbs painted a lion attacking a horse. Lions and those other big cats designated at that time under the generic term of tygers soon occupy the top place in his art.
On July 9, 2014, Sotheby's sold for £ 7.7M from a lower estimate of £ 4M Tygers at play, oil on canvas 102 x 127 cm. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
Two leopard kittens play with great vivacity in an imaginary exotic landscape certainly inspired by the passion of the contemporaries for Cook's discoveries. These friendly animals respond positively to the postulate of Rousseau on natural goodness at birth.
This undated painting was exhibited for the first time in 1776. Carefully preserved with discretion for almost two centuries by a British aristocratic family, it remains in a very exciting condition.
1776 Marie-Antoinette's Diamond Bracelets
2021 SOLD for CHF 7.5M by Christie's
Marie-Antoinette of Austria ascended the throne of France in 1774 with her husband King Louis XVI. Aged 19, the new queen wished to enjoy the utmost luxury and glamour. She adored wearing diamonds.
She purchased in 1776 a pair of earrings and a pair of bracelets to the jeweler Boehmer, far beyond her own financial capability. The Austrian diplomat Mercy-Argenteau kept informed the empress Maria Theresia about that excessive extravagance of her daughter. King Louis will have to find in the following years how to pay Boehmer.
Marie-Antoinette took a great personal care to her jewels. In 1791, threatened in the on going French Révolution, she packed up her jewelry in a wooden chest which was sent for safe keeping to Mercy-Argenteau exiled in Brussels.
In February 1794, four months after the beheading of the queen, Mercy-Argenteau managed an inventory on request from the new emperor Francis II. The jewels went to the court of Austria where their ownership and use were transferred to Madame Royale, the only surviving child of the late queen.
After the death of Madame Royale, the pair of Boehmer bracelets went to the lineage of the dukes of Parma. These composite jewels are still in their exact original condition as described in the 1794 Brussels inventory, excepted an additional diamond on the clasps.
The collection of pearl jewels of Marie-Antoinette also went to the dukes of Parma through Madame Royale. The pendant was sold for CHF 36.4M by Sotheby's in 2018.
#QueenMarieAntoinette's marvellously beautiful diamond bracelets will highlight the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on 9 November. The remarkable unbroken lineage of these bracelets represents one of the most undisputed provenances of any royal jewels □: https://t.co/2HeshzVQcy pic.twitter.com/DgW1uiqZMu— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) October 30, 2021
1776 Seascape by Vernet
2011 SOLD for $ 7M by Sotheby's
When he returned to France, King Louis XV commissioned him a series of monumental paintings showing life in the ports of France. He worked to it during ten years, from 1753 to 1762, and realized fourteen large size paintings, 263 x 165 cm.
The compositions are similar to those of his contemporary of Venice, Francesco Guardi. The ports are realistic and recognizable. In the foreground, on the waterfront, a crowd of small figures brings the atmosphere of the time.
The English aristocrats were lovers of art and tourism. In 1774, one of them ordered to the artist a pair of paintings of a similar size as those of the royal commission. One of them was sold for $ 7M from a lower estimate of $ 1.5M by Sotheby's on January 27, 2011.
Dated 1776, it shows a quiet sea shore at sunset. Small characters are unloading some merchandise from a tall ship that can be seen offshore. Buildings on the left are certainly part of a port facility. It is not located and is probably a work of imagination, as many of the unofficial paintings by Vernet.
Vernet's art is a realistic witnessing of his time, much interesting and also unexpected as it comes between the mythological imagination of le Lorrain (Claude Gellée) and the sentimental excesses of the Romantics.
1776 The Emeralds of Catherine the Great
2010 SOLD for $ 1.65M by Christie's
In November 2008, Christie's listed in Geneva a necklace assembled for an English aristocrat with Colombian emeralds which had once belonged to the Empress, for a total weight of one hundred carats. This lot estimated 1.8 MCHF had not been sold.
On April 22, 2010 the same auction house sold for $ 1.65M from a lower estimate of $ 1M a jewel more prestigious, more beautiful, from certain provenance ... and less expensive. It is a brooch centered by an hexagonal Colombian emerald weighing over 60 carats, in a sumptuous surrounding of old cut diamonds.
At the wedding of his son and future successor Paul in 1776, Catherine gave the brooch to the bride, Sophie Dorothea. I already had the opportunity to observe the fundamental role of gifts exchanged by the Russian Imperial family for the make and circulation of art objects. Thank you Catherine!
1776 The Dunlap Broadside
2000 SOLD for $ 8.1M by Sotheby's
On July 4, 1776 the original manuscript of the Declaration was signed by John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress and especially of this memorable session, and by Charles Thomson, secretary of the Congress. From then they had to act in a hurry to propagate the information in the thirteen colonies and to the army. They had no time left for preparing a clean copy of that draft amended during the debates or a fortiori to have it signed by the delegates who have just approved its text.
The manuscript is forwarded to John Dunlap, a printer operating in Philadelphia who is the usual contractor for official Congress documents. The broadside is printed during the night of July 4 to 5. The manuscript no longer matters : it is lost in this operation. Hancock organizes the distribution of the document while urging each recipient to disclose the text by any appropriate means.
The quantity of copies of the Dunlap broadside is not known although the figure of 200 seems fair. 25 copies survive. Almost all are in US institutions or museums.
One of them was found in 1989 by a bargain hunter in the backside of the frame of a torn painting that he had just bought. It was sold for $ 8.1M by Sotheby's on June 29, 2000, a record at the time for an Internet auction.
The buyer was the television producer Norman Lear supported by Internet entrepreneur David Hayden. Lear is not a collector. He immediately organized the Declaration of Independence Road Trip, a non-profit organization committed for displaying this historic document to as many people as possible through tours from city to city.
1776 Hancock Letter to Georgia
2022 SOLD for $ 1.9M by Freeman's
The Congress debates the strategy concerning England : equitable reconciliation or separation. The supporters of independence form a committee in charge of preparing a declaration which is written by Jefferson.
Hancock chairs the session of July 4, 1776 during which the delegates accept the text of the committee of the independence. Now time is running out. John Adams will say later : "We were all in haste". The document prepared by Jefferson is signed by Hancock and attested by the Congress secretary, Charles Thomson. It is immediately supplied to John Dunlap, the official printer of the documents of the Congress.
During the night of July 4 to 5, Dunlap prints a broadcast in approximately 200 copies. To accompany the broadcast, Hancock prepares a letter encouraging its public proclamation. The letter is written by a clerk in thirteen copies on July 5 and 6, and mailed to either a personality or a committee in each of the thirteen colonies. A similar shipment was made to two war leaders including Washington.
Each letter is signed by Hancock. His powerful signature, very legible and underlined with a small monogram, is still proverbial in the United States.
On January 27, 2020, Sotheby's sold for $ 1.04M one of the letters signed by Hancock, lot 2271.
The name of the recipient state has been erased. It is not one of the nine letters to states whose addressee has been identified. By elimination, Sotheby's considered that it is the announcement of the Declaration by Hancock for use in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia. Five letters from the nine for which the recipient is documented are currently lost.
The letter went to Freeman's on May 4, 2022. It is now established that the cancelled state was Georgia. It is known in local history that the mail arrived on August 8 in Savannah, the seat of Georgia's revolutionary government. It was sold for $ 1.9M, lot 11.
Delegates were not invited to sign beside Hancock and Thomson during the July 4 session. The original manuscript is lost, possibly destroyed by Dunlap after use. On July 19, the Congress decides to prepare a new manuscript copy on parchment to receive all the signatures.
1776 Salem Broadside
July 16 four column print
2023 SOLD fir $ 2.9M by Heritage
The official broadside of the Congress is printed by Dunlap in Philadelphia in the early morning of July 5, 1776 and passed on to the delegates for disclosure in the thirteen colonies without waiting for the ratification. This document is directly or indirectly the source of all early publications of the Declaration, as broadsides and in the columns of magazines, beginning in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York.
After the original broadside prepared by Dunlap and distributed on Hancock's orders, fourteen local editions of broadsides are known, including five without printer identification. The comparison with newspaper impressions allows an attribution. Experts look for the number of columns and for typographic variations.
The Declaration reaches Boston on July 13 and Watertown three days later.
Ezekiel Russell was the printer of the only newspaper in Salem, The American Gazette. The Declaration is published in the No. 5 of this new weekly paper on 16 July in four narrow columns spreading over two pages. During the composition of that issue the same four columns are printed as a 43 x 36 cm broadside. Six copies are known.
A copy of the four column broadside was sold for $ 2.9M by Heritage on July 8, 2023, lot 42010.
July 16 four column print
2022 SOLD for $ 2.1M by Christie's
On the offchance you need a 1776 broadside Declaration or Melville’s annotated Dante & have some change in your pocket, because who doesn’t??— Jennifer Schuessler (@jennyschuessler) January 13, 2022
My story on @ChristiesBKS upcoming sale of the private collection of legendary bookseller William Reese https://t.co/dNACfOZ0wL
July 23 authorized Massachusetts broadside
2022 SOLD for $ 2.23M by Sotheby's
This edition by order of the Massachusetts Council is commissioned to the official printer of the colony, Ezekiel Russell, established in Salem. Very similar to the Dunlap edition, it is typed in a single broad column.
On July 23 the No. 6 of The American Gazette is devoted to the Declaration as authorized by the Council, with a few words apologizing to readers for that exclusive content. The authorized broadside 50 x 40 cm on laid paper was certainly printed simultaneously.
A 50 x 40 cm copy on laid paper of the authorized Massachusetts broadside had been shipped to Revd Mr Stone in Southboro, according to a marking in the reverse. The charges against King George III have been checked off with horizontal rules, arguably by the Reverend for helping him in the required sermon.
Beautifully preserved despite its folding in eighths for dispatch and untrimmed, it was treasured by the Southborough Historical Society and was unknown except a reference in a 1955 list.
It was sold for $ 2.23M from a lower estimate of $ 1.5M by Sotheby's on July 21, 2022, lot 1004.
A poor copy was sold for $ 510K by Heritage on April 5, 2016, lot 49032. A very fresh untrimmed copy was sold for $ 1.2M by Sotheby's on January 17, 2018, lot 176. Both examples identify the name of the reverend who received the copy.
On August 5 the Council approves its official broadside. The American Gazette had permanently ceased its publication after its No. 7, probably due to a break of partnership between publisher and printer.