19th Century Prints, Copperplate, Engraving, Past/Present, Portraits, Prints, Stipple

Past/Present: Calligraphic Memorials

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Today we are sharing a Past/Present post of engraved memorials to Washington. After Washington’s death in 1799, many engravers and publishers rushed to create prints of Washington’s likeness for the grieving populace. Washington “had played such a central role in the extraordinary events of a quarter century that his death was an event of great emotional consequence in America, affecting the very identity of the nation… In honoring Washington the nation was honoring its own history” (Wick, 70). The memorial prints served to remember Washington for his accomplishments, great vision, and character, and to urge the populace to emulate the traits of their lost leader. The engravers surrounded their portraits with poems, allegorical elements, and symbols of the man’s greatness as well as the rich imagery found in mourning art- the obelisk, urn, angels, and weeping figures. The prints shown in today’s post are beautifully ornate calligraphic portraits of the lost leader.

The earlier print is a calligraphic copper engraving, designed, written, and published by Benjamin O. Tyler, professor of penmanship, New York, 1817. It was engraved by Peter Maverick, a copper and steel engraver based in Newark. The print has a stipple oval portrait of Washington in center of an elegiac poem, angels, and masonic symbols of a shining sun and book held open by a square and compass. Above the portrait, two ovals encompass the words: ‘Tho’ shrin’d in dust, great WASHINGTON now lies, The Memory of his Deeds shall ever bloom; Twin’d with proud Laurels, shall the Olive rise, And wave unfading o’er his Honor’d Tomb.” and “To him ye Nations yield eternal FAME, First on th’ Heroic list enroll his Name; High on th’ ensculptur’d marble let him stand, The undaunted Hero of his native land.”  Below his portrait reads: “Gen. George Washington departed this life Decr. 14th. 1799 AE 67. And the tears of a NATION watered his grave.

The second print is calligraphic engraving by John I. Donlevy, intaglio-chromographic and electrographic engraver. Originally issued by Donlevy in 1838, this is a second state published c. 1870. Within an elaborate oval penmanship border is a stipple-engraved portrait of Washington. The portrait is based on Stuart’s Athenaeum painting, with the bust done in swirls.  The lettering is executed in the typical variety of styles with cursive flourishes, shadows, italics, and blackletter. Above the portraits is an engraved eagle, with laurel and the American flag in its beak and arrows clutched in its talons. 

Image on the Top: Eulogium Sacred to the Memory of the Illustrious George Washington, Columbia’s Great and Successful Son: Honored Be His Name. By Benjamin O. Tyler. Published by Benjamin O. Tyler, New York. Engraved by Peter Maverick. Line and stipple copper engraving, 1817 . Image size 16 1/4 x 20 1/2″  plus margins. LINK.

Image on the Bottom: Sacred to the Memory of the Illustrious Champion of Liberty, General George Washington; First President of the United States of America. By John I. Donlevy. Published by John I. Donlevy. Calligraphic and stipple engraving, 1838, (c.1870). Platemark 16 1/2 x 13 7/8″. LINK.

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