Framed English black and white mezzotint engraving titiled "Major General James Wolfe / Commander in Chief of his Majesty's Forces in the Expedition against Quebec." and "London Printed for Robt Sayer Map & Printseller No. 55 in Fleet Street." and "From an Original Picture in the Possession of Her. Smith, Esqr." and "Corbut fecit." Major-General James Wolfe (1727-1759) was placed in command of the British forces in the expedition against Quebec in 1759. His troops successfully attacked Quebec on Sept. 13, 1759; the French surrendered five days later, ensuring the English control of Canada. However, the Battle of Quebec took the lives of Wolfe, the French commander in chief, Montcalm, and 1500 French soldiers. Wolfe became a romanticized hero in England, and his prints were also popular in the American colonies; one was in the estate of Esther Williams (1726-1800), widow of Dr. Thomas Williams (1718-1775) of Deerfield. Wolfe's memory was particularly revered in Boston and other New England newspapers printed poems and odes to his courage and sacrifice. The original painting was apparently done by the artist J.S.C. Schaak (working 1760-1770) within months of Wolfe's death at Quebec, an engraving of which was included in the "Grand Magazine" of 1760. The engraver Richard Houston (1722-1775) made the second engraving with its full-length portrait of Wolfe facing right and pointing with his right hand, and a black arm band tied around his left bicep - a show of mourning for his late father, but also a foreshadowing of his own death at Quebec - and his left hand holding a glove and resting on his belt, and boats and troops massing to scramble up the cliffs outside Quebec City to vanquish Gen. Montcalm and seize Canada for the British in the background. This first edition of Houston's mezzotint was published between 1762 and 1764 by a consortium of printsellers including Bakewell and Parker, the Bowles', and Robert Sayer (1725-1794), and was soon being reproduced in magazines, posters and books, fueling a cottage industry of printed memorials to the fallen general throughout the British Empire. The inscription on this first edition states that the print was "In the possession of Hervey Smith Esqr.", who was probably Hervey Smythe (1743-1811), an army officer and Wolfe's aide-de-camp in Quebec and topographical painter. Badly wounded in 1759, Smythe returned to England taking a number of sketches he had made of places in the Gulf of St Lawrence and of battles during the siege of Quebec. The Schaak painting is considered one of the few known images to have captured Wolfe's true appearance around 1759, since it was believed to have been based on an eyewitness sketch by Hervey Smyth. Historian Stephen Brumwell notes: "Although the precise origin of the design is unclear, the fact that a simple line version appeared in the "Grand Magazine" of 1760, and that Wolfe is depicted in the plain uniform he is known to have favoured throughout the Quebec campaign, suggests that it was based upon the work of an eyewitness, rather than a London-based artist." A mezzotint copy that reversed Houston's print and was inscribed only with the words, "Corbut fecit," also appeared on the market. Charles or Philip Corbutt or Corbut was a pseudonyn for engraver and publisher Richard Purcell (d.1766) who was working from 1736-1766. According to Fowble: "In the ten years that Purcell was turning out quantities of hack work for Sayer, he managed a few pieces that gave a hint of the fine engraver he might have been were he not so prone to personal excess. Purcell seems to have added his name to the better examples and fallen back on the alias for the lesser works, either to hide hid hand or to make it appear that Sayer had one more engraver in his hire." Other sources refer to Purcell plagiarizing many works for Robert Sayer. Interestingly, Sayer published both this mezzotint with its reversed image and Corbut signature, and the original Houston version.
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