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    THOMAS "STONEWALL" JACKSON: AN IMPORTANT CONTEMPORARY OIL PORTRAIT PAINTED IN 1862. This amazing painting must surely rank as one of the most exciting Civil War artifacts it has ever been our pleasure to present: a well-documented war-date portrait of one of the most beloved heroes of the Confederacy! It was painted by an itinerant portrait artist named L. P. Unger. Little is known of Unger, including his birth and death dates. But it is known that he traveled seeking commissions, and that he was active in North Carolina shortly before the War.

    A notarized 1944 letter (reproduced on our web site) provides the provenance: Ms. Dorothy Spencer, who was the great niece of Jackson intimate Dr. James Graham, attests that the painting had passed to her from Graham through her father, George Spencer. As she points out in her letter, and is historically documented, Jackson lived with Graham and his wife over the winter of 1861-62 in Winchester, Virginia. She states that the painting was "given" to Graham by Jackson at that time, but of course it may well be that it was Graham who actually commissioned the work, for which Jackson sat while his visitor. The letter also references a sword bayonet (whereabouts now unknown) which Jackson definitely did give Graham as a souvenir at that time.

    The connection between Stonewall Jackson and James Graham is well documented, as is the General's stay with him. Graham was the pastor of the Kent Street Presbyterian Church in Winchester from 1851 to 1914, where Jackson often worshipped. Jackson's deep religious convictions are of course a critical aspect of his persona. He was known to retire frequently for solitary prayer, and to himself conduct morning and evening religious services for his staff officers in his headquarters tent. Rev. Graham said of him, "In the whole course of his prayer, he did not forget for one moment that he was one of a company of sinners, deserving nothing of God, yet pleading with Him, for Christ's sake, to be merciful to us and to bless us."

    Reverend Graham was regarded as "probably Jackson's foremost religious mentor" and the personal relationship was further substantiated by the fact that Jackson entrusted the care of his wife to the Grahams after he left their home to assume an active role in the War of 1862.

    The printing itself is an unmistakable likeness of Jackson in Confederate uniform, oil on canvas, measuring 21" x 25" (plus frame). It is unsigned, but this is quite typical of works by these itinerant portrait artists. The most persuasive basis for the attribution is the fact that the identity of the otherwise little-known artist as "Unger" was passed down through the family along with the portrait. Interestingly, the 1944 letter refers to him only by his last name, as his first name or even initials were forgotten by the descendants. However, the designation of an obscure artist who quite plausibly worked in the area in 1861-62 by the family 80 years later gives great credence to the painting's attribution to L. P. Unger. In the field to Jackson's right is lettered "Gen. Stonewall Jackson 1862", however the entire painting is so darkened as to make it difficult to make out. An informal condition examination indicates that there are several layers of old varnish, and possibly some minor, very old restoration. The painting has never been relined, but it was re-mounted on a new wood stretcher which appears to date from around the 1920s, and the restoration may well have been accomplished at that time. There is light scattered surface craquelure, but no significant present damage, and aside from being rather dark it is in fine display condition. Nonetheless, it might well benefit greatly from a thorough professional cleaning and detailed conservation.

    Our extensive research has failed to uncover any known portraits of Stonewall Jackson from the War period, let alone from life. The earliest works seem to be two oil paintings in the VMI Museum, painted by different artists, but both done in 1868. Given the great priority attached by Civil War collectors to any artifacts relating to Jackson, this offering must be recognized as a unique and highly important opportunity for individuals and institutions alike.


    ‡ The owner placed a late bid on this unreserved lot and repurchased it, subject to applicable commission.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2007
    1st Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 6,214

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