Mezzotint of Lord Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1797) based on a 1765 portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) inscribed: "Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A." and "Engraved by James Watson" over "SIR JEFFERY AMHERST, K.B. / Commander in Chief of the British Forces in America from 1758 to 1764; created Baron Amherst of Holmes date in Kent 1776; Governor of Guernsey; Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards, and Colonel in Chief of the 60th or Royal American Regiment; One of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council; General Commanding in Chief the British Troops in England from 1778 to 1782; and again from January 1793 to February 1795. Published by J. & J. BOYDELL, cheapside; & at the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall-Mall, London." In 1758, Prime Minister William Pitt the elder (1708-1778) sent Jeffrey Amherst, a career military officer, from England to lead the British assault on Louisbourg, one of the battles of the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Amherst, newly promoted to major-general, captured the key French bastion on Cape Breton Island on July 27, 1758. This victory opened the St. Lawrence River to future British incursions, and Amherst was named commander-in-chief in North America. A three-pronged attack against French Canada was planned for 1759: a westward push up the St. Lawrence to Quebec, a northward invasion from Albany by way of lakes George and Champlain, and the quelling of French strength in the West at Fort Niagara. All major objectives were met during the “Year of Victories” with Amherst playing a direct role in occupying former French positions at Fort Ticonderoga and Crown As a reward for his success, Amherst was appointed governor-general of British North America, a position he held until 1763. However, Amherst was unable to suppress Pontiac’s Rebellion to his superiors' satisfaction, and he was recalled to London. In addition, allegations have persisted that Amherst was responsible for conducting an early form of germ warfare against warring Native Americans, a group who he and others of his era held in extremely low regard. A letter still exists in which Amherst raises the possibility of conveying smallpox-infected blankets into Indian hands. Historians’ views differ on whether or not the plan was actually executed, but the tribes in western Pennsylvania were struck by a devastating outbreak of the disease at this time. Because of his close ties with many Americans, Amherst refused to take a field command during the War for Independence; however, he did serve in an advisory role for the British cause. Despite the setbacks in his career, Amherst was widely celebrated for his achievements. He was knighted in 1761, made a baron in 1776, and promoted to field marshal shortly in 1778. Both Amherst, Massachusetts, and Amherst College were named in his honor. The Amherst print was first issued about 1766 to celebrate Amherst's role in the conquest of Canada; this print is a fifth-state impression. Amherst is portrayed wearing traditional armor and weapons, and the Order of the Bath pinned to his chest. His helmet rests a map of Montreal, whose capture he orchestrated in September 1760 by leading British troops down the rapids of the St. Lawrence River. Those troops in large canoes streaming down the St. Lawrence are shown in the background. James Watson (1739?-1790) was born in Ireland, and then settled in London where he learned engraving. He became one of the leading mezzotint engravers of the day, including 56 plates after the paintings of Joshua Reynolds. The majority of Watson's work was for Sayer, Boydell, Bowles and other printsellers, but he published some plates himself. Watson exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1762 to 1775.
Maps have long been used in portraiture to symbolize the subject’s connection to a place or event. In this, the last of five mezzotint portraits of Jeffery Amherst (1717-1797) based on Sir Joshua Reynolds’ oil portrait of 1765, a map becomes a device to acknowledge and celebrate victory. Amherst is pictured in extravagant military regalia with his helmet resting on a map of Montreal whose capture he orchestrated in September 1760 by leading British troops down the rapids of the St. Lawrence River.
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