Skinner Auctions
Skinner AuctionsBoston MA
March 2, 2014 10:00 AMCalender

Paul Revere, Jr. (Boston, 1734-1818) Portrait of Major John Pitcairn on Horseback.

Sell one like this
Auction: American Furniture & Decorative Arts - 2710BLocation: BostonDate / Time: March 02, 2014 10:00AM


Paul Revere, Jr. (Boston, 1734-1818)

Portrait of Major John Pitcairn on Horseback. Signed "P. Revere del." l.r., and inscribed "Major John Pitcairn" in the same hand l.r., both outside of the border. Watercolor on laid paper, 6 1/2 x 5 in., with applied marbled paper border in a period molded giltwood frame. Condition: Toning, light creases, minor foxing.

Provenance: According to typed inscriptions applied to the back of the frame the painting came from the estate of Duncan Phyfe, grandson of the late cabinet maker and from whom he inherited the painting.

Note: Major John Pitcairn, A Scottish-born officer in the British Marines, was sent to Boston in late 1774 with 600 marines under his command to help quell the unrest which had been brewing in the colonies. Taxation by the British Parliament, and events such as the "Boston Massacre" in March of 1770, had helped fuel the colonists' fire.
Although unsympathetic to the Provincial cause, Pitcairn endeared himself to the people he dealt with during the conflict by organizing civic improvements, and by showing fairness, consideration, and courtesy in settling disputes between the civilians and the military. He even won the respect of rebel colonist Paul Revere and his neighbor, an anti-British tailor named Samuel Shaw, at whose North End home Pitcairn was billeted at when martial law was imposed in Boston. It is reported that Pitcairn hosted social events at Shaw's house in which he invited British officers and opposing locals, including Revere, to meet and exchange their views in a civilized manner. It is likely that during this time of close proximity that Revere, with his engraver's eye for detail, may have executed this small and possibly unique portrait of Pitcairn on horseback.
On the night of April 18th, 1775, Pitcairn volunteered to join British forces under Lt. Col. Smith on the expedition to Concord, a small town about 18 miles from Boston. For some time, colonists had been accumulating supplies in Concord to form an army, and the illegal Provincial Congress had also been meeting in the town. Pitcairn was made second-in-command, and placed at the head of the column. At dawn, Pitcairn reached the center of Lexington, where armed men had formed. The soldiers at the front of the column marched onto the green, and Pitcairn ordered the Lexington men to disperse. A shot rang out, and the men fired, killing eight and wounding another ten. Pitcairn's horse was wounded two times during the exchange of fire. The scenario wasn't much better in Concord, with most of the supplies being removed from the town prior to the arrival of the British. More blood was shed at the north bridge by an attack of the Provincials, and as the British where marching back to Boston, they were attacked from all sides, barely making it back to the safety of Boston at nightfall.
On June 17th, 1775, two months after the ill-fated expedition to Concord, British troops where again formed, this time to attack the Provincial army which had dug fortifications on the slope of Breed's Hill in Charlestown. Three bloody assaults were made, and on the last Pitcairn fell, mortally wounded. Major John Pitcairn died at the age of 52 and is buried in the crypt of Christ Church (the "Old North Church") in Boston.

Estimate $20,000-30,000

The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging. Condition requests can be obtained via email (lot inquiry button) or by telephone to the appropriate gallery location (Boston/617.350.5400 or Marlborough/508.970.3000). Any condition statement given, as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Skinner Inc. shall have no responsibility for any error or omission.


John Pitcairn, Major, Paul Revere , Jr., Duncan Phyfe, Scotland, British Parliament, Samuel Shaw, Paul Revere, martial law, Smith, Provincial Congress, head, Charlestown, Provincial army, Christ Church, Old North Church