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Portrait, Mezzotint, Israel Putnam, Bunker Hill, Antique Print, London, 1775 (Sold)

J. Wilkinson (act. 1773-1801) (after)
Johann Martin Will (1727-1806) (engraver)
Israel Putnam, Esq’r.
C. Shepherd: London, September 9, 1775
Mezzotint
14 x 9.25 inches, plate mark
15 x 10.25 inches, overall

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A dramatically lit mezzotint portrait of Israel Putnam (1718-1790), a hero of the American Revolutionary War, described in the subtitle as “Major General of the Connecticut Forces, and Commander in Chief at the Engagement on Bunckers Hill (sic) near Boston, 17 June 1775.” Putnam is portrayed outdoors at night in a three-quarter-length portrait, wearing a military dress uniform with a sword at his hip, gazing off to where the cannons behind him are firing. His right arm rests on a cannon holding the glove that is removed from his muscular left hand. Behind him, smoke rises into the dark sky. According to mezzotint scholar Charles E. Russell, this is the second state of this print (see References below). Britain’s National Portrait Gallery also has one of these prints in its collection.

Product description continues below.

Description

General Israel Putnam is best remembered for leading the American troops during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, where he is said to have given the famous command, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” He grew up on a farm in the vicinity of Salem, Massachusetts, a descendant of the original Puritan settlers. At age 22, he moved to Connecticut. By 1758, he was a major in the Connecticut militia, and fought in the French and Indian War, during which he was captured and tortured by Native Americans until he was rescued by a French officer. On April 19, 1775, he was at work on his farm in Brooklyn, Connecticut, when news arrived of the battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts that began the Revolutionary War. Later that day, Putnam volunteered his services and headed for Cambridge, Massachusetts. The British Army occupied Boston for the next two months and planned to consolidate their hold on the area by landing troops at Charlestown on June 17. Under the leadership of Colonels Putnam and Prescott, the patriots laid in ambush and fought back with a ferocity and skill that took the British by surprise. Eventually, the British forced the Americans into retreat, but only after losing about 40% of their troops to casualties. Bunker Hill became a rallying cry to the American public and gave them hope they could eventually prevail. In recognition, the Continental Congress awarded Putnam the first commission of major general, making him second in rank to George Washington, and Putnam continued to command Connecticut troops in other battles. Putnam is remembered for his bravery and skill at enforcing discipline and maintaining morale among his troops under difficult circumstances. Several states have Putnam Counties named for him: New York, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Johann Martin Will was a German artist, engraver and printmaker, who spent his life in Augsburg, a major European center of publishing and engraving during the 18th century.

Full publication information: J. Wilkinson pinx. Joh. Martin Will execudit Aug. Vind. [J. Wilkinson painted it. Johann Martin Will engraved it in Augsburg]. Published as the Act directs by C. Shepherd 9 Sept. 1775. London.

Condition: Generally very good, a rich impression, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, also laid on Japanese paper to flatten central soft horizontal crease and support minor scattered abrasions in margins, now with only light remaining toning and wear and the crease quite unobtrusive, barely showing. Good margins.

References:

“Breed’s Hill/ Bunker Hill Abstract.” Department of Military Science, Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 28 August 2003. http://www.wpi.edu/Academics/Depts/MilSci/BTSI/abs_bunk.html (7 March 2006).

Hubbard, Rob. General Israel Putnam Website. 2018. https://sites.google.com/site/generalisraelputnamwebsite/home (7 May 2020).

“Israel Putnam.” National Portrait Gallery. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw204809/Israel-Putnam (12 May 2020).

Russell, Charles E. English Mezzotint Portraits and Their States: Catalogue of Corrections of and Additions to Chaloner Smith’s “British Mezzotinto Portraits.” Vol 2. London: Halton & Truscott Smith, Ltd. New York: Minto, Balch & Co., 1926. p. 451, item 10a.

Additional information

Century

18th Century