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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Plaque of George Washington after Stuart's "The Landowner," circa 1800, sold: $54,625. Photo courtesy of Doyle Galleries
“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

That’s how friends remembered George Washington after his death. One of his greatest gifts to America was his refusal to appoint himself “King” after being the first commander-in-chief of the American Army. Many expected he would and should.

That wasn’t Washington’s dream for himself or America. After the war, he returned to the life of a Virginia farmer. It was years later when he was elected as the first president that he reluctantly agreed to serve. After the election people wanted to call him, ”Your Majesty.” They thought “Mr. President” sounded too common. But Washington insisted they call him “Mr. President” anyway.

Washington gained his power by giving it up, thus coaxing America down a path of freedom and self-government. “His leadership was the only aspect of the new government that really appealed to people,” James Madison said.

Washington remains a “true” hero in a culture that sometimes mistakenly confuses heroes with celebrities. As such, items pertaining to Washington will always be in demand in the marketplace.

On Dec. 1, an oil portrait of George Washington attributed to the famous American portrait painter Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), 30 inches by 25 inches, estimated to bring $30,000-$50,000, sold at William Doyle Galleries, New York, for $151,000.

If this painting could speak it would tell of a life in England, a journey to China, and finally a trip to New York. The portrait is referred to as the “Athenaeum type” because it is based on the well-documented, unfinished portrait of George Washington, facing left, given to the Boston Athenaeum after the artist’s death.

An enamel painting on copper plaque of George Washington painted by Henry Bone, circa 1800, 12 inches by 8 inches, also sold in the auction, and realized $54,625. This would appear to be the same painting exhibited by Henry Bone at the Royal Academy in London around 1801, painted after Gilbert Stuart’s “Lansdowne” portrait.

Bone was an English artist highly sought after for his painted enamel portrait miniatures and plaques. This is only one of three-or-four known works of this image by Bone.

A third important George Washington piece, a Federal gilt-wood and eglomise memorial mirror, circa 1800, with an engraved portrait of Washington, inscribed, “Washington died 14 Dec 1799, Aged 68Ys,” backed by an attached paper label for James Stokes, Philadelphia, sold for $8,050.

Another mirror with the label of James Stokes is in the collection of The Winterthur Museum in Delaware. (The mirror in the sale was discovered during a recent William Doyle Galleries Appraisal Day in Connecticut.)

Q. I have been a golfer for many years and still retain my dad’s ‘Otey Crissman’ putter plus other memorabilia. Would appreciate the address and number of an auctioneer dealing in golf memorabilia? Art Sternberger, Monroeville, Pa.

A. Golf memorabilia is a growing arena in the collectibles field. People collect everything from clubs, balls and score cards, to magazines, programs, and sporting goods catalogs. Kevin McGrath deals strictly with golf memorabilia in his auctions. You can contact McGrath at 47 Leonard Road, Melrose, Mass 02176.

One of the things I’ve learned from your letters over the years is you like specialized auctions. Whether it’s golf, shaving mugs, dolls, Nazi memorabilia, movie posters, Judaica, or Lincoln artifacts, you want to know about them.

Specialized auctions form a critical mass for values in the marketplace in a selected area of collecting. Where else can you track the selling price for 600 shaving mugs, or 200 movie posters in one day?

That’s why I suggest you write to an auction house, request a catalog, and post-sale result list for an area of particular interest to you. You’ll have your own market data, including photos, and detailed descriptions. Resources like these give you a real edge in buying, selling and collecting.

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