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Sotheby's London to Sell Portrait of British Advocate for American Independence
Jean Laurent Mosnier, Portrait of William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, 1st Marquess of Landsdowne (1737-1805), Seated Three Quarter-Length In General’s Uniform with Garter Ribbon, the Lesser George Tied to His Sash. Estimate: £200/300,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale will include a portrait of Lord Lansdowne, acknowledged by the first American President George Washington as someone to whom the new United States of America owed a great deal. This painting by Jean Laurent Mosnier, named Portrait of William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, 1st Marquess of Landsdowne (1737-1805), Seated Three Quarter-Length In General’s Uniform With Garter Ribbon, The Lesser George Tied To His Sash, is estimated at £200,000-300,000.

Commenting on this painting, Emmeline Hallmark, Head of Sotheby’s London British Paintings Department, said: Lord Lansdowne was a fantastically enlightened man as well as a patron of the arts. A great mind and political figure of his day, his contribution to British-American relations was extraordinary. This portrait, which Sotheby’s will offer for sale next week, encapsulates the charisma of this unique character.

In 1791 President George Washington said: "This Country has a grateful recollection of the Agency your Lordship had in settling the dispute between Great Britain and it". Of the numerous portraits of Shelburne, a most distinguished politician, patron, husband and father, this is without question the most charismatic, commanding and yet intimate – painted when he was at the climax of his career it encapsulates the power and character of this extraordinary man. Shelburne commissioned this superb portrait from the leading French portrait artist of the Royal family, the Paris Salon and Académie Royal, Jean Larent Mosnier who had recently arrived as an exile from France escaping the turmoil of the Revolution.

William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805),
Shelburne compiled a report which became the basis for the Proclamation of 1763 issued by Lord Halifax, Shelburne's successor; territories for the new colonies were defined and opened for settlement, courts of justice were established to operate as closely as possible to the laws of England, an Indian reservation was established which forbade settlement unless permission was granted by the Crown, licensed trade was opened and escaped criminals were seized. This was one of the most enlightened forms of ministerial doctrine to emerge from the evolution of American Colonial policy. In July 1782, Shelburne formed his own administration, and on becoming Prime Minister immediately turned his attention to seeking peace with America.

At home Shelburne espoused liberal theories which were advanced for their time, including parliamentary and constitutional reform, Roman Catholic emancipation and religious equality, and surrounded himself with the greatest minds of the day, including Benjamin Franklin, David Hume, Richard Price, Jeremy Bentham, Joseph Priestly, Robert Adam and the Abbe Morellet, among others. He was one of the most munificent patrons of the arts of his time, comissioning works by Reynolds and Gainsborough, as well as Mosnier and others, including numerous literaterary figures.

Jean Laurent Mosnier
Mosnier had arrived in London at the beginning of 1791. In the finesse of its execution and sheer attention to detail this portrait exemplifies the essence of Parisian sophistication. Mosnier's sheer technical brilliance (perfected on a small scale earlier in his career as a painter of portrait miniatures), was also admired by other esteemed sitters who commissioned their portraits at this time, including George Brydges, Admiral Lord Rodney (National Maritime Museum), Lieutenant-Colonel Richardson (National Army Museum), Anne Dundas, Mrs Mary Henry Drummond with Son (Alnwick Castle Collection) amongst others.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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