A portrait of the last royal governor of South Carolina by famed 18th Century English landscape and portrait artist Thomas Gainsborough is expected to bring between $303,000 and $454,500 at auction.
The work is being auctioned today at Christie’s London as part of a sale of old master and 19th Century paintings.
“The half-length portrait of the royal governor, Lord William Campbell, shows Campbell in his naval uniform. It is thought to have been painted in the mid to late-1770s, after Campbell had returned to England,” according to a report by The Associated Press.
Campbell became governor of South Carolina in June 1775, six months after patriot leaders established a provincial congress in the colony to act independently of British rule.
He sought to turn backcountry settlers against wealthy plantation owners along the coast, but his position quickly became untenable and he and his family were forced to flee Charleston on a British ship in September 1775.
“Campbell returned the next year with a British fleet commanded by Sir Peter Parker that tried to capture Charleston in June 1776, just days before the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia,” The Associated Press reported. “The invasion fleet was repulsed by a small American force under Col. William Moultrie manning a palmetto log fort on Sullivans Island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor.”
Campbell was said to have been wounded in the battle and returned to England. Gainsborough painted him in mid-late 1770s, shortly before Campbell died from complications from the injury in September 1778.
The portrait was last owned by a collector in England whose estate is putting it up for auction and last exhibited it in the 1970s, according to Ben Hall, director of Old Masters & 19th Century Art at Christie’s New York.
Prior to that, the piece belonged to one of Campbell’s descendants, who auctioned the painting in the 1950s.
Gainsborough is best known for “The Blue Boy,” which is part of the collection at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. Christie’s holds the world auction record for a work by Gainsborough, set in April 2008 with the sale of “A Wooded Landscape” for $5.7 million.