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Washington portrait expected to fetch $10M

Charles Willson Peale’s painting of the first U.S. president is dated 1779
/ Source: The Associated Press

A painting of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale, the premier portrait artist of the American Revolutionary period, is expected to sell for $10 million to $15 million when it is auctioned at Christie’s on Saturday, the auction house said.

The painting, signed and dated 1779, is one of eight full-length portraits of Washington painted by Peale between 1779 and 1781 and is the only one known to be in private hands.

It is being offered as part of a sale of American furniture and decorative arts from Natalie Knowlton Blair, a collector of Americana who died in 1951. The collection is being sold by her grandson.

The 8-foot-tall Peale portrait depicts Washington as commander of the Continental Army. It was sent by the artist to Spain after he painted it to promote the American cause abroad. Blair and her husband, banker J. Insley Blair, bought the painting in 1919.

The record for an American portrait sold at auction is $8.1 million, for a half-length portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart. It was sold by Sotheby’s on Nov. 30, 2005.

The Blair collection also includes fine pieces of American furniture such as a 1729 chest of drawers by Robert Crosman, estimated at $500,000 to $800,000, and a Queen Anne mahogany card table circa 1730-1740, estimated at $150,000 to $250,000.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)