The Hero Returned from Boston.
HART Thomas (1776.)
A LOVELY IMAGE CONCERNING THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR
Aquatint measuring 295 by 222mm (plate size 252 by 175mm). A few faint old creases, two spots, one marginal, the other just within the plate mark, else very good. London [but Augsburg], Printed for Tho[ma]s Hart, 7th Sep'r
A very rare print ostensibly celebrating British troops returning from the American Revolutionary War. In a striking composition, the three-quarter length portrait shows a male subject in a military overcoat and tricorn hat, a sabre in his hand, staring provocatively at the viewer. He is embraced by a woman with high haristyle, her nose touches his, and one of her breasts is bared.
The male subject bears a passing resemblance to Sir William Howe (see BM: 1902,1011.7074), who in 1776 was the Commander in Chief of the British forces in America. He was widely criticised for the high casualties incurred in the Battle of Bunker Hill as well as his mishandling of the siege of Boston, and was concurrently rumoured to be engaged in an affair with Elizabeth Lloyd Loring, the wife of American loyalist, Joshua Loring. This print may well be intended as a subtle satire of his misconduct during the early stages of the Revolutionary War. The female figure, alternately, may well be an early representation of Marianne, the personification of Liberty who became a symbol of the Age of Revolution. The ambiguity in the interaction between the two figures invites further research.
The publisher Thomas Hart also produced a series of mezzotint portraits of named British officers in the same year. The British Museum asserts that "all are false London addresses for prints made and published almost certainly in Augsburg." They also link the publisher to the names John Morris and C. Shepherd, qqv to whom other prints in the mezzotint series were attributed, with the implication that all may be pseudonyms.
This print is very rare. We have located one copy only in a collection, at the Yale University Art Gallery. Not in BM or LOC. Rare Book Hub finds a sole mention, as one of only 12 specified items in the 249 print collection of map and printseller Robert Sayer, offered as a single lot in the 14 Feb 1928 sale "The Notable Library formed by the late Col. Rhinelander Waldo of New York City" conducted by the American Art Association of New York.
Stock Code: 244220