Peale, Charles Willson - portrait of Colonel Charles Pope

Followers of these posts about collecting miniature portraits will be aware that by far the majority of this Artists and Ancestors collection has been acquired at eBay online auctions. Previous to the year 2000 some miniatures had been acquired at local auctions and antique shops, but locating them was time consuming as they were rarely seen. That situation altered in the year 2000 with the ability to buy online, and at the same time an early interest was sparked in American miniature portraits as, compared to British and European miniatures, they seemed so little researched.

That paucity of available research still largely prevails for American miniatures, so this website has sought to "publish" personal research on American artists from time to time to assist museums and other collectors who find the lack of research handicaps their work. Partly as a result of publishing that research and displaying American miniatures in the collection on the website (about 400 American miniatures at present, plus 600 British and European miniatures), there seems to have become a greater knowledge and awareness of American miniatures in the market place and hence greater price competition when examples are offered for sale! That is perhaps the downside of sharing research! - but as additions to the collection are now less frequent and for unsual items, that competition is happily accepted as the sign of a maturing interest in the subject.

I have commented before, (as have many others!) that in any area of collecting, those collectors with unlimited financial resources can achieve a collection of the very best in their chosen field. That equally applies in collecting miniature portraits. However, as this collector, in common with most average collectors, has limited financial resources, it is readily acknowledged that there are many items in this collection which are of only average quality. Part of the reason for that is that an element of self-discipline has been to seek to maintain an average purchase price of $400. That has acted as a challenge in seeking interesting items and an increasing brake on personal spending as prices in the market rose! There is believed to be far more "fun" and a greater ability to learn, in buying 50 or 100 miniatures over an extended period for an average of $400 each, compared with buying a single rare American miniature by Charles Willson Peale for $20,000, or even $40,000 if the sitter is an important one.

Although the average target has been largely maintained, occasional splurges have threatened the average. The miniature portrait here is a case in point, where an unrecognised Charles Willson Peale was acquired for far below the market value.

It was offered on eBay UK in June 2014 as:
Fine Georgian portrait miniature of a gentleman in solid gold frame. Please find for sale an extremely fine quality Georgian portrait miniature of a gentleman. The portrait has been beautifully well painted and is housed in a 9ct solid gold,unmarked but fully tested, frame which measures 4.7cm x 3.7cm. The watercolour measures 4.2cm x 3.2cm. The total weight is 14.2 grammes. Is offered in good condition.

Hence it was effectively offered as a portrait of an unknown sitter by an unknown artist, with most British bidders making the understandable deduction that it was by a British artist of the 18C, although not by Smart, Meyer or other important British artists of the later 18C.

However, for those more interested in American miniatures, it was possible to recognise the artist as being perhaps the most famous of all American artists, Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), who painted both miniatures and large oils. There is minor paint lost on his shoulder, and the case may be a replacement, but it is the only Charles Willson Peale noticed as offered on eBay in 15 years. On opening it, it was found that although difficult to read, the backing paper included the name Pope. That is most likely the name of the sitter. A polite query was sent to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington about the miniature and seeking any knowledge of a Pope as a sitter, but there was no reply. Thus it has been necessary to try and identify the sitter from basic knowledge. The most likely sitter seems to be Charles Pope, although that is not certain. The Society of the Cincinnati has prepared an extensive biography of Pope at  as follows, which is gratefully acknowledged:

Charles Pope 
Colonel John Haslet's Delaware State Troops in Continental Service; Commissioned Captain (5th Company), 18 January 1776; Wounded at the Battle of Mamaroneck, New York, 21 October 1776; Colonel David Hall's Delaware Regiment, Continental Line; Commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel, 5 April 1777. Resigned (on account of wounds), 13 December 1779. 

Charles Pope, born in 1748 at Duck Creek Cross Roads, was both an Army and Naval officer in Delaware service during the American Revolution. A prosperous merchant before the war with Britain, Pope in 1775 raised a company of militia and prepared to leave his home and business to fight for the American cause. In January 1776 he was commissioned Captain by the Continental Congress and his unit was accepted into service as the Fifth Company of Colonel John Haslet's Regiment of Delaware State Troops. Prior to the Regiment's leaving the State, Pope's Company was detached to guard against incursions by crews of British ships on the Delaware and to suppress loyalist activities in Kent and Sussex Counties. 

In July the Company rejoined the Regiment and took part in the Battles of Long Island and Mamaroneck. Captain Pope was cited in reports for gallantly at Long Island. At Mamaroneck the Regiment made a daring night attack on the camps of loyalist rangers under Colonel Robert Rogers of French and Indian War fame. Unfortunately for the Americans, Rogers had been uneasy about his position and put a full company of troops where only individual sentries had been expected. When the Americans fell upon them In the dark the Loyalists added to the confusion by taking up their attackers' cries of "Surrender, you tory dogs!" The advanced company of the enemy finally broke and ran and a number of prisoners were taken, but the hated Colonel Rogers escaped. During the fight Captain Pope was wounded in the leg. 

The term of service of Haslet's Regiment expired at the end of 1776 and the following year Pope was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the Delaware Continental Regiment under David Hall. That same year Hall's Delaware Regiment fought in the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Germantown, where Hall was wounded and Lieutenant Colonel Pope took command. While the Regiment rested in Wilmington during the winter of 1777-78 Delaware President George Read asked Pope to investigate reports of a British landing in Kent County. The invasion turned out to have been only a small raid that was over before Pope arrived. In April, however, Pope was again sent for when Cheney Clow attempted armed insurrection in Delaware, and this time he arrived in time to take action. Even as a detachment of Continentals was marching south from Wilmington Pope led a band of Delaware militia against the Tory "fort," routed its defenders without a serious fight, and captured about fifty of the Loyalists. Pope returned to his Regiment, which rejoined the main army in the spring, and led them at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778. 

In June 1779 Pope was court-martialed on the charge of using a soldier of the Delaware regiment "in his domestic business in the spring and summer of 1778." The court found the charge "groundless" and "aquit him of it with honor." Later in the year he became ill and left the Army, retiring in December. Retirement from the Army was not the end of the War for Pope, however, and within a year he accepted command of the Delaware Navy, a small force of leased ships that was expected to protect the Delaware coast and river traffic. Pope himself commanded three different ships during the final years of the War. 

With the end of the War Pope returned to Duck Creek Crossroads and became quite rich. When he moved to Georgia in the closing years of the eighteenth century he sold a plantation of 270 acres with a house and new barn, a farm of 150 acres, a complex of wharves and grain storage buildings on the Duck Creek, a lot in the town of Duck Creek Crossroads on which stood a tavern and a tanyard, his original brick store in the center of town, and his town home consisting of two-storey brick house, nursery, kitchen, stable, carriage house, smoke house, and granary. Charles Pope was married twice. His first wife, Jane Stokesly, bore him five children, all sons. She died in 1793. Pope's second wife was Sarah Simpson, whom he married in 1799; there were no children. Pope died in Georgia on February 16, 1803, and was buried there on his farm in Columbia County.

However, the Cincinnati biography also displays this portrait said to be of Colonel Charles Pope. As will be obvious it is quite a different person, but it should be noted that his hair, side burns, and clothing more closely resemble those fashionable around 1810-1815 and he looks to be aged around 30 to 35 years old. Although appearing to be based upon a miniature portrait, the image was not painted by CW Peale, nor is it easily attributable to any other American artist of the late 18C. The soldier Charles Pope was born in 1748 and died in 1803, so it seems unlikely that this image is of that Charles Pope. Therefore he is more likely from the following generation, as Colonel Pope had a son also named Charles Pope, who was born on 26 Nov 1780 in Duck Creek Crossing, Smyrna, Kent, DE. He died on 30 November 1812 and thus better fits the fashions and age depicted in the Cincinnati portrait.

It is not uncommon for family histories to become garbled when passed on by word of mouth. A number of instances have arisen with this collection and in answering queries from visitors. Study of the clothing, hair, and any identification of the artist can often narrow down the search and sometimes enable an identification. Thus, in making a comparison with the Peale miniature, Colonel Charles Pope was born in 1748, and in 1778 he would have been aged 30, which better fits the hair and clothing depicted in the Peale miniature. Pope was also a successful man and thus quite likely to have commissioned Peale to paint a miniature portrait, as did many other officers at the time when Peale was busy painting many of them. 1495

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