News / USA

Rare Presidential Artifacts Go to Auction

Porcelain which was made to order in China for President George Washington and his wife Martha. This one plate is expected to sell at auction for between $25,000 and $40,000. (VOA/J. Taboh)
Porcelain which was made to order in China for President George Washington and his wife Martha. This one plate is expected to sell at auction for between $25,000 and $40,000. (VOA/J. Taboh)
Artifacts and paintings related to the earliest days of the American presidency up until recent times, are slated to be sold to the highest bidder by Christie's, the famed auction house in New York.

The items were showcased ahead of the sale, in a Washington, D.C. exhibit entitled “Washington to Warhol: The Presidency in Art.”

Washington to Warhol

The rare items on display included a 19th century portrait of President George Washington, which sat near a 1986 screenprint of President Theodore Roosevelt by the late pop artist Andy Warhol.

And a 1985 print of the American flag by the late pop artist Roy Lichtenstein didn't seem out of place in an exhibit that also featured a limited edition copy of the Declaration of Independence signed two centuries ago.

  • Thomas Jefferson's China service, circa 1790 (VOA/J. Taboh)
  • This porcelain which was made to order in China for President George Washington and his wife Martha. This one plate is expected to sell at auction for between $25,000 and $40,000. (VOA/J. Taboh)
  • The original draft of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" written by Julia Ward Howe in November 1861.
  • A portrait of George Washington, painted by Rembrandt Peale in 1859, next to Roy Lichtenstein’s "Forms in Space," from 1985. (VOA/J. Taboh)
  • Roy Lichtenstein’s screenprint, "Forms in Space," from 1985. (VOA/J. Taboh)
  • A silver teapot, made by American patriot and silversmith Paul Revere in 1780, is expected to sell for up to $250,000. (VOA/J. Taboh)
  • Painting of Paul Revere (1734-1818) with one of his teapots. (VOA/J. Taboh)
  • A limited-edition copy of The Declaration of Independence created by William J. Stone in July 1823. (VOA/J. Taboh)
  • "Teddy Roosevelt," part of Andy Warhol’s series, "Cowboys and Indians," from 1986. (VOA/J.Taboh)
  • Andy Warhold's "Jackie II," of Jackie Kennedy, from 1966


​The items on display were slated to be sold in a number of auctions in the coming months.

At one of the first sales, on Oct. 31, Lichtenstein's "Forms in Space" sold for $52,500.

Warhol's Jackie ll, of Jacqueline Kennedy, went for $11,250. Warhol's image of Roosevelt, was sold as part of a set of 10 called "Cowboys and Indians." Created by Warhol, the grouping includes images of famous cowboys and Indians in American history. It sold for for $122,500.

“Warhol was tremendously innovative in terms of looking for American culture and bringing it forward in the 20th century,” said Paul Provost, deputy chairman at Christie’s New York,

Declaration of Independence

At the other end of the timeline was a limited edition copy of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in 1776. The limited edition was created 50 years after the declaration was signed.  

“The 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence was approaching so Congress commissioned engraver William Stone to produce a very accurate, detailed facsimile, actual-size, printed on fine parchment," said Chris Coover, Christie's senior specialist in American historical documents. “One of the nice things about the facsimile, is all the signatures of the 56 men who signed it are accurately reproduced. That includes John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, a real panoply of American founding fathers.”

Lincoln’s favorite anthem

Among the rarest documents in the collection is the original draft of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," one of the most recognized American anthems.

Poet and abolitionist Julia Ward Howe wrote it in November 1861 during the early days of the American Civil War, after witnessing a skirmish between the Union and Confederate armies.

The anthem became an instant hit with Union soldiers.  

According to Coover, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was one of President Abraham Lincoln’s favorite pieces.

“Lincoln loved this piece and asked for it to be performed on many occasions,” he said.

Paul Revere's teapot

A silver teapot made by the American patriot, Paul Revere, is another historic item featured in the exhibit.

Revere made his famous ride in 1775 to alert American troops near Boston that the British were coming. Many people are unaware that the Revolutionary War hero was a silversmith.

“Both before he made his famous ride to Lexington and Concord, and after the revolution, he went back to his trade as a silversmith,” said Jeanne Sloane, deputy chairman at Christie’s.

The teapot was made in 1782, the year Revere came back from fighting in an artillery regiment.

Chinese porcelain

Another treasure in the collection is porcelain which was made to order in China for both President George Washington and President Thomas Jefferson.   

“It’s so wonderful for us to see all of these materials together,” said Becky MacGuire, a senior specialist of chinese Export Art at Christie's. “When you read about it in the history books, it just does not come alive the way these pieces do.”

Christie's Paul Provost said the market for Americana is strong, and with the upcoming elections, the timing couldn’t be better.

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