Gilbert Stuart’s Mohawk Chieftain A Highlight At Sotheby’s

Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828), “Portrait of the Mohawk chieftain Thayendanegea, known as Joseph Brant (1742–1807),” oil on canvas, 30 by 25 inches, inscribed, verso, on the relining: “Joseph Theanandagen (commonly called Capt Brandt [sic]) Chief Warrior of Sachem of the Mohawk / Nation of Indians who served with the Duke of Northumberland in America in the Year 1776 / Transcribed 27th June 1955,” sold for $7,051,842.

LONDON — A fascinating portrait of Mohawk war chieftain Thayendanegea (to whom the English gave the name Joseph Brant) made by Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828) in 1786 surpassed estimates to achieve $7,051,842 at Sotheby’s July 9 evening sale of Old Master and British paintings. Going to an American private buyer and coming from the collections of the Dukes Of Northumberland, the painting depicts the Loyalist statesman (1742/43–1807) who saw limited action during the Seven Years’ War and served with Sir William Johnson in the expedition against Fort Niagara in 1759.

Later, Brant attended Moor’s Indian and Charity School in Lebanon, Conn., where he stayed for two years. In 1765, Brant married an Oneida (who died in 1771) and settled at Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley.

Stuart’s image puts the war chief in full Iroquois regalia with silver rings embroidered onto his clothing, a plumed headdress and silver amulets on his upper arm and wrist and silver gorget — presented to him by George III for his service to Britain in the American Revolutionary War — above a cameo with a profile portrait of the king in a brass frame.

Exhibitions featuring the portrait included Washington’s National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1976–1977 and 2005.

The top lot of the evening was George Stubbs’ “Tygers at Play,” which realized $13,194,459. Painted circa 1770–75, this masterful depiction of two leopard cubs ranks among Stubbs’ most popular subjects. The painting had rarely been seen in public, having been exhibited only four times since its original appearance at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Coming from a distinguished British aristocratic collection, it had remained in the possession of a single family until 1962, when it was acquired by the past owners. It was acquired by an Asian private collector

A total of 17 auction records were set in the evening sale, including the highest price ever paid for a drawing by Sandro Botticelli. The only drawing by the great Renaissance Master to have come to auction since the Nineteenth Century, “Study for a Seated St Joseph, His Head Resting on His Right Hand,” sold for $2,252,922.

Additional records were set for Giovanni da Rimini, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Raffaellino Del Garbo, Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, Benedetto Gennari, Jan Sanders Van Hemessen, Jacob Huysmans, George Romney, Willem Kalf, the Master of the Female Half-Length, Willem van Nieulandt the Younger, Hieronymus Francken II, Dominic Serres, Michele Marieschi, a collaboration between Jan Brueghel the Younger and Hendrik van Balen the Elder and a work from the workshop of Albrecht Bouts.

Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.sothebys.com or +44 207 293 6000.

George Stubbs (1724–1806), “Tygers at Play,” oil on canvas, 40 by 50 inches, was the auction’s top lot, realizing $13,194,459.

Sandro Botticelli (1444/45–1510), “Study for a Seated St Joseph, His Head Resting on His Right Hand,” pen and brown ink heightened with white over black chalk, on beige-pink washed paper, squared in black chalk for transfer; bears attribution in pencil at the bottom: “Giotto,” fetched $2,252,922.

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