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c. 1799 Miniature Stipple Engraving of George Washington Likely Only Known Proof Being The One Described by Hart
c. 1799, Copper-Plate Stipple Miniature Oval Portrait Proof Engraving of General George Washington in his Military Uniform, by William Harrison, Jr., a form and size likely for use of Washington’s image placed in contemporarily handcrafted Commemorative rings, an Embossed Proof Strike on heavy rag period paper, Extremely Fine.
A remarkable likely unique Copper-Plate Stipple Engraving of General George Washington that appears to have been based on the original Gilbert Stuart painted portrait. What makes this engraving so remarkable is its diminutive size; it measures in height about 3/4” and in width about 1/2”, on heavy rag period paper, the crisp sharp detail of the portrait’s engraving is amazing.

The original Copper-Plate press embossing on the paper is about 2-1/4” tall by 1.5” wide. Judging from other Washington engravings by Harrison listed in Charles Hart’s “The Engraved Portraits of Washington,” (where this type is listed as Hart 694), we date this engraving to 1800, when it was most likely created as an insert into a mourning item, perhaps a stick pin, brooch, or ring. The paper is a thick heavy rag paper and has no tears. Some light toning can be seen along some of the outer edges, but none of this affects the sharp image of Washington.

Apparently, this is a very rare if not unique engraving and Proof printing. For instance, when the American Art Association offered the Edwin Babcock Holden Collection in 1910, the very example used in the Hart reference was stated as: “Unknown to Baker. The only known copy, and the one described by Hart.” We have certainly never seen another and we have not been able to locate another appearance. To our best knowledge, a unique original Proof Strike.
William Harrison, Jr. was a skilled portrait engraver in Philadelphia, where he worked in line and stipple engravings. Very little of his signed work is seen and he was probably chiefly employed by the banknote engraving companies.
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