At Skinner we are privileged to be able to offer extraordinary items in all categories of antiques and fine art. Items of great historical importance are also regularly consigned for auction. Sometimes the objects are well known; often they are not or have not been seen for generations. The November 19 American Furniture & Decorative Arts auction features a beautiful watercolor panoramic view of the Town of Boston (Lot 2) that has been lovingly housed in a private collection since World War II.
Titled Boston Harbor and part of Charles Town with Bunker’s Hill and dated June 15, 1815, the work spans more than eleven feet across six joined sheets of paper. It was created by George Heriot (1759-1839). Heriot was active in Quebec and England which is the subject of most of his works, but he occasionally painted scenes in the United States. His American views are very rare and the largest group of Heriot’s known American views are housed in one of his sketchbooks in the collection of the New-York Historical Society. The sketchbook contains forty-six American views also sketched in 1815.
Heriot’s panoramic watercolor was last sold by Sotheby’s in 1943. Interestingly, the same auction also included the sketch book now preserved by the New-York Historical Society. Both items were the property of Reverend C.A. Machonochie who was a descendent of George Heriot. The panorama is a fascinating illustration that documents the Town of Boston less than forty years after the American Revolution when it was still a “colonial town” before significant city-wide changes and improvements were made beginning in the 1820s.
Each section of the panorama has been photographed in detail and is presented below with a description of what is illustrated on each panel based on research conducted by Charlestown, Massachusetts, photographer and historian, Reverend Wolcott Cutler.