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Lot Number: 100
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Estimate Range: $4,000 - $6,000
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Commodore Robert Esek Hopkins American Revolutionary War Naval Commander-in-Chief Portrait, After C. Corbutt

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c. 1780 18th Century, Hand-Painted Watercolor Colored Gouache Portrait of Revolutionary War Commodore Robert (i.e.) Esek Hopkins, After the circa 1780 18th Century Mezzotint Engraving by C. Corbutt, Framed, Choice Extremely Fine.

Original Hand-Colored Gouache on 18th Century period laid paper, no date, being a Portrait of (Robert i.e.) Esek Hopkins (1718-1802), measuring about 5.75” x 5” and framed to 7.25” x 6.5”. Handsome chest-up pose of Hopkins in his Naval military uniform on laid paper by Russell. Obviously with significant age, there is a small attached extra portion on the paper folded behind the image. Someone has written “Robert Hopkins American Commodore” in small print in pencil on the reverse of the attached paper. Colors are bold and rich. Commodore Esek Hopkins was the first and only Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Navy Fleet during the American Revolutionary War, and was a Founding Member, together with George Washington, of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Gouache paint is similar to watercolor but modified to make it an opaque painting medium (non-transparent). A binding agent, usually gum arabic, is present, just as in watercolor. Gouache differs from watercolor in that the particles are larger, the ratio of pigment to water is much higher, and an additional, inert, white pigment such as chalk is also present. This makes gouache heavier and more opaque, with greater reflective qualities.

There is a known miniature Watercolor on Paper of Hopkins, thought to be dating from the 1790s, in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society and an Oil on canvas by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) painted in 1857 was in the collection of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. This is an original artwork, After an earlier engraving, likely c. 1850-1870s being of the mid to third quarter of the 19th century and possibly for the 1875 American Centennial of the Continental Navy. Presented in a simple black painted wooden period style frame with a brass loop hanger at top. An outstanding, colorful and very well executed period Gouache Portrait of Esek Hopkins.
In 1775, Commodore Robert i.e. Esek Hopkins was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the newly-formed Continental Navy. Despite his most earnest efforts however, the fledgling Revolutionary War period American Navy failed to meet the more lofty and unrealistic expectations of the Continental Congress. Hopkins even had to compete with Privateers for supplies, and more importantly for sailors!

Privateers offered sailors higher wages and a greater share of plundered goods from the enemy ships they captured. By January 2, 1778, Congress wearied of Esek Hopkins' supposed meager accomplishments and dismissed him from his position as the Continental Navy Commander-in-Chief.


ESEK HOPKINS. American Naval Officer, born in Scituate, Rhode Island, in 1718; died in North Providence, Rhode Island, 26 February, 1802.

When the Revolutionary War began he was commissioned by General Francis Cook as Brigadier-General, and in December, 1775, he was Commissioned by the Continental Congress Commander-in-chief of the navy, and was officially addressed by Washington as "Admiral Hopkins."

In February, 1776, he put to sea with the first squadron that was sent out by the colonies, consisting of merely four ships and three sloops. The fleet sailed for the Bahamas, and captured the forts at New Providence, with eighty cannon and a large quantity of ordnance stores and ammunition. On his return off Block island, he took the British schooner "Hawke" and the bomb-brig "Bolton," and was complimented officially by the president of congress for this success. Two days afterward he attacked the "Glasgow," of 29 guns, which escaped, and Hopkins was censured.

In June, 1776, he was ordered by Congress to appear before the Naval Committee to reply to charges preferred against him for not annoying the enemy's ships on the southern coast. He was defended by John Adams and acquitted, but unavoidable delays in getting his ships ready for sea at a later period gave his enemies another opportunity for complaint. He neglected a citation to appear in Philadelphia, and on 2 January, 1777, was dismissed from the service.

He then settled near Providence, exerted throughout a long life an immense political influence in Rhode Island, and was for many years a member of the general assembly. His son, John Burroughs, naval officer, was one of the first Captains of the Revolutionary Navy, being commissioned 22 December, 1775. He commanded the "Cabot" in the expedition to the Bahamas in 1776, and in April, 1779, sailed from Boston in command of a squadron, and captured, with small loss to his own fleet, seven vessels laden with stores, 200 men, and twenty-four British officers.
Lot Number: 100
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Estimate Range: $4,000 - $6,000
Early American
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