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    Spectacular From-life Ulysses S. Grant Oil Painting, a Civil War Era Work by Recognized Artist Ole Peder Hansen Balling This historically-important portrait has recently surfaced after 140 years of obscurity. It depicts the Union's military leader shortly before his famous meeting with General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House which ended the Civil War. Grant is shown in the uniform of a lieutenant general, seated at a table covered with green felt. His overcoat is slung over the back of the chair. The painting is signed "Hans Balling 1865." Balling was a Norwegian-born artist who opened a studio in New York in 1856, specializing in historical portraits. Like many immigrants, he volunteered to serve in the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. He commanded two volunteer companies in the New York 1st Infantry, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Wounded at Fredericksburg, he was discharged from the Army on January 24, 1863, and resumed his career as an artist. After sketching Abraham Lincoln at the White House in the fall of 1864, Balling obtained permission to "pass to Grant" for the purpose of painting portraits of the leading Union generals. He joined Grant at City Point, Virginia during the campaign against Richmond, and spent five weeks sketching officers in the field. Balling's masterpiece, "Grant and His Generals," now hangs at the National Portrait Gallery. This monumental work depicts a long line of generals on horseback, along the crest of a ridge, with American flags fluttering in the breeze. The image of George Armstrong Custer in this work is thought to be the only life portrait made of him. Balling also did life portraits of John Brown and Presidents James Garfield and Chester Arthur; the Garfield also hangs at the National Portrait Gallery. The painting measures 26" x 31", oil on canvas, and comes with a period black mahogany frame, likely original to the piece. Condition and appearance are excellent, as the photo shows. It is a difficult task to place a monetary value on this piece, since little of Balling's work has reached the marketplace in recent times, and certainly nothing of this importance and quality. But the superb, lifelike quality of the portrait, combined with its historic importance, make this an offering of considerable significance. In addition to having been painted by a Union soldier, it is believed to be the only from-life portrait of Grant done during the Civil War. Until last year it belonged to the family of Civil War General Robert Nugent, who was one of the organizers of the 69th New York Regiment (the renowned "Fighting Irish"), and who commanded that unit until it was mustered out of service. Nugent, a New York resident, may well have obtained the painting directly from the artist's studio.Note : Since cataloging this item, Heritage has received additional information about this work. It may be the case that it was actually painted in the studio several years after the War ended, despite being dated 1865. The pose seems to resemble a Grant photograph known to date from 1866, and he did not receive his fourth star, visible on his shoulder in the painting, until 1866. Quite possibly it was painted several years later, and the artist dated it 1865 because he believed the image to have come from that year, rather than 1866. In any case, the painting certainly dates from no later than the period shortly after the War, when Balling was still actively painting Civil War generals. It may be a misnomer to describe this work as "from life," as Grant may not have actually sat for this particular painting. But Balling did paint Grant from life, and the present work is highly significant in any case because of the artist's stature as a painter of Union generals during this period, with works in the National Gallery.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2005
    22nd-23rd Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 13
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,008

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