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Large 1801 Folio Engraving of Thomas Jefferson as New President
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This engraving by David Edwin pictures Jefferson standing beside a table, with his hand on a desktop globe. Edwin copied the head from the Rembrandt Peale portrait of 1800. Edwin placed Jefferson in a black suit in a formal setting, comparable to the 1796 portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (known as the “Lansdowne” portrait because it was commissioned as a gift for William Petty, first Marquis of Lansdowne).

[THOMAS JEFFERSON]. Print. Engraved by David Edwin, published by George Helmbold Jr., 1801. 1 p., 13 x 19¾ in. (image); 14⅞ x 22 ½ in. (sheet). 1/1/1801.

Inventory #25421       Price: $4,500

Historical Background
In September 1800, German immigrant publisher George Helmbold Jr. began advertising in the Aurora newspaper in Philadelphia that he would produce a full-length portrait of Thomas Jefferson. It would measure 14 by 22 inches and cost $6. He expected delivery in five months. On February 20, 1801, however, framemaker Augustus Day announced the publication of a full-length portrait of Jefferson by engraver Cornelius Tiebout. Helmbold published his Jefferson portrait, of which this is an example, in July 1801.

Also in July, Helmbold began to advertise a plan to publish the American Gallery of Distinguished Public Characters, which would include portraits of “the most distinguished” public figures in America, including Presidents Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, Aaron Burr, Thomas Mifflin, George Clinton, Horatio Gates, Thomas McKean, Samuel Smith, and others. Gilbert Stuart would make a series of paintings for the work, and David Edwin would make the engravings from Stuart’s paintings. This engraving of Jefferson was likely the first of the series, and Helmbold advertised this project until at least August 1802, but he apparently never completed the project.

David Edwin (1776-1841) was born in Bath, England. He studied delineation with the Dutch engraver Mynheer Jossi, then worked as a sailor on an American ship for passage to Philadelphia, where he arrived in 1797. He obtained work as an assistant engraver to Edward Savage and then to the portrait painter Gilbert Stuart. He soon did much of the portrait engraving performed in the United States. Working long hours harmed his health and eyesight, and his career lasted a little over twenty years. Impoverished by the Embargo and War of 1812, Edwin obtained employment as an assistant to an auctioneer and to a treasurer of a theatre, as well as operating a grocery store. He executed his last engraving about 1830 from a portrait of Stuart by John Neagle. In 1835, he helped organize the Artist’s Fund Society of Philadelphia and served as its first treasurer until his death. As an engraver, he was called the “American Bartolozzi” in method, after the Italian engraver Francesco Bartolozzi (1727-1815), who worked in London for nearly forty years and was a leading exponent of the “stipple” method of engraving.

Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860) was born in Pennsylvania to notable artist Charles Willson Peale and his wife Rachel Brewer Peale. Charles Willson Peale taught all of his children to paint scenery and portraiture. Rembrandt Peale began drawing at the age of 8, and completed his first self-portrait at the age of 13. In 1787, he accompanied his father to meet George Washington and watched him paint a portrait of the future president. In 1795, at the age of 17, Rembrandt Peale painted a portrait of an aging Washington, which was well received. In 1798, he married Eleanor May Short (1776-1836), and they had nine children. He painted portraits of many leading figures of the period, including Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and William Henry Harrison. In 1814, Peale moved to Baltimore, where he opened a museum of natural science and art modeled after his father’s in Philadelphia. In 1822, Peale moved to New York City and continued painting portraits. In 1840, he married one of his pupils, Harriet Cany (1799-1869).  During his career, Rembrandt Peale completed more than 600 paintings.

George Helmbold Jr. (1778-1821) was born in Pennsylvania into a German immigrant family. His father was a papermaker. Beginning in 1799, George Helmbold Jr. was the publisher of Neue Philadelphische Correspondenz, a German-language newspaper in Philadelphia. In 1802, he married Sarah Makin in Philadelphia. From 1807 to 1812, he published the comic newspaper, The Tickler. From 1817 until his death, he edited and published the Independent Balance newspaper.

Condition: Very Good; deacidified; some tears in the margin, clear of the engraving, professionally mended.

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