Charles Balthazar Julien Saint Memin (French, 1770-1852). Large portrait of General William Eaton (1764-1811), painted Richmond, Virginia circa 1808. Black and white chalk on paper; profile bust length view of the subject, wearing a dark coat and white ruffled shirt. No signature found. Matted and framed under glass in a molded period lemon-gilt frame. Sight – 19 1/4" H x 13 5/8" W. Framed – 24 1/2" H x 18 1/2" W. Note: Ellen Miles, author of SAINT-MEMIN AND THE NEOCLASSICAL PROFILE PORTRAIT IN AMERICA, has confirmed the authenticity of this work and identified the sitter as William Eaton (#298 in the catalog). Provenance: Private Alabama collection. Subject Biography: William Eaton is best known for serving as consul to Tunis and as a principle witness in the 1807 treason trial of Aaron Burr (in which he testified he believed Burr was planning to overthrow the U.S. Government and had offered him the rank of General in his army). Eaton was born in Connecticut and served in the Continental Army. He was commissioned to the Legion of the United States in 1792 and appointed the U.S. Consul at Tunis by President John Adams. In 1814, seven years after the Burr trial, Eaton earned national accolades when he led a force of U.S. Marines across the Libyan desert for a successful attack on the city of Derne (loosely portrayed in the 1950 film "Tripoli"). Source: the Briscoe Center, University of Texas at Austin (which houses the William Eaton Papers, 1794-1807). Artist Biography: "Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint-Memin was a member of the French hereditary nobility, and came to New York City in 1793, at the age of twenty-three as a former military officer exiled by the events of the French Revolution. In New York, Saint-MÃ©min turned to the arts to support himself, his parents, and his sister. With some training in drawing and an aptitude for precision, he taught himself the art of engraving. First, he made a few landscapes and city plans, and then, in 1796 he took up the profession of portraitist. In 1798 he moved the portrait business to Philadelphia and his parents and sister settled in nearby Burlington, New Jersey. In Philadelphia, and later in Washington, D.C., Saint-MÃ©min's sitters included senators, congressmen, and cabinet members in the federal government. He also attracted local merchants and landowners, French Ã©migrÃ©s like himself, and members of the United States Army, Navy, and Marines. From 1803 until 1809, Saint-MÃ©min traveled south. His visit to Richmond in 1807-1808 was particularly successful. He made more than 120 portraits in less than a year, a record number for him. His arrival in the summer of 1807 was undoubtedly timed to coincide with the trial of Aaron Burr for treason, which began on August 3; Burr was acquitted in September. During this period, the population of the city almost doubled with witnesses, Burr partisans, and curious spectators. Many of them commissioned the artist to make their portraits, including John Marshall, the presiding judge at the trial. St. Memin and his family returned permanently to France in 1814, after the overthrow of Napoleon and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. Several large sets of his engravings were later compiled from the hundreds of duplicates that the artist owned. The two largest sets–at the National Portrait Gallery and the Corcoran Gallery of Art–have inscriptions that provide the identifications for many of the portraits. Within the restricted format of the profile portrait, Saint-MÃ©min's drawings and engravings offer an immediacy and realism that is, simultaneously, a stylized and a literal account of many of the residents of Federal America." – Edited essay from The National Portrait Gallery, Ellen G. Miles, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture. CONDITION: Paper is adhered to backing. Foxing and toning throughout. Signs of damage and retouching to hair, sleeve, and lapel. Dark chalk suggesting shadow behind the figure and white chalk at upper and lower left corners possibly added by a later hand, to conceal damage. Blue tint to eye and ruddy tint to ribbon may also be later additions. Frame is of the period but not original, with scattered wear, abrasions, and original gilding; mat and glass later. Not examined out of frame – refer to photo taken by consignor prior to reframing.
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