At Auction | Liberty or Death: Relics from the American Revolution

Posted in Art Market, exhibitions, museums by Editor on June 9, 2013

While I generally refrain from editorializing, it seems to me that there’s something dreadful linguistically and maybe conceptually about the phrase “selling exhibition.” On the other hand, the objects included in the sale and the exhibition look interesting enough, and this is the first I’ve heard of the Museum of the American Revolution (further proof of just how much slips past me!). Robert A. M. Stern’s design plans were unveiled last June, and the museum plans to open in 2016. -CH

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From a Sotheby’s press release (6 June 2013) . . .

Liberty or Death: Relics from the American Revolution
Sotheby’s, New York, 1–28 June 2013


Robert A. M. Stern, Architectural Rendering for the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia

Sotheby’s presents Liberty or Death: Relics from the American Revolution, an exciting cross-platform initiative in collaboration with Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution. The selling exhibition features items for sale by Sotheby’s as well as objects on loan from the museum’s extraordinary collection, creating a fresh, multi-dimensional dialogue on America’s struggle for independence. The exhibition will be open to the public through 28 June 2013.

The Museum of the American Revolution will be a national institution that will chronicle the full sweep of the American Revolution – the deadly struggle between British and American forces as well as the growth of the idea of independence. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the museum will be built steps away from where the Declaration of Independence was drafted, debated and adopted. Funds are currently being raised to build the institution. “We are delighted to collaborate with Sotheby’s to display these great treasures from our collection. Through this exhibition, people now have a rare opportunity to view these relics as they await display in the new Museum of the American Revolution,” said Michael C. Quinn, President and CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution.

Commander in Chief’s Standard, ca. 1777-83 (Philadelphia: Museum of the American Revolution)

Commander in Chief’s Standard, ca. 1777-83 (Philadelphia: Museum of the American Revolution)

The distinctive thirteen-star blue silk standard circa 1777–83 that marked the presence of the Commander-in-chief on the battlefield and in headquarters is on loan from the museum and currently on view. This rectangular standard has been known for more than a century as George Washington’s Headquarters flag. It descended in the family of Washington’s sister, Betty Washington Lewis, whose son George served as an officer in the Commander-in-Chief’s guard. Also on loan from the museum are ten original silver camp cups from George Washington’s military field equipment with commemorative inscriptions. The original set of twelve cups, used to serve wine to aides and guests at the General’s table, were made in the shop of Philadelphia silversmith Edmund Milne in August 1777.

Sotheby’s selling exhibition will include a rare contemporary printing of the Declaration of Independence, the official printing for Massachusetts Bay, and a fine and rare engraved powder horn from March 22, 1770, owned by Jonathan Leonard Jr. (February 17, 1763 – January 25, 1849), a soldier in the American Revolution. The unique phrase, “Britain to Washington Shall Yield, Freedom Shall Triumph in the Field,” is engraved on the horn, paraphrased from the last verse of the highly popular song of the time, Great News from the Jerseys. Also included in the sale is the William Schuyler American horseman saber with figured maple grip, eagle pommel and original leather scabbard circa 1778–90. Opening hours are Monday – Saturday 10 am – 5pm and Sunday 1 pm – 5pm through 28 June 2013.

The Museum of the American Revolution will tell the complete story of the American Revolution. To be built in historic Philadelphia, just steps from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the museum will feature a distinguished collection of objects, artifacts, artwork, and manuscripts from the period of the American Revolution that will bring to life the original “greatest generation” and engage people in the history and continuing relevance of the American Revolution.

2 Responses

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  1. Nicole Belolan said, on June 10, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Thank you for this post! On a related note, I thought your readers might be interested in Colonial Williamsburg’s current collaboration with the Museum of the American Revolution to reproduce George Washington’s Revolutionary War tent. This summer, costumed CW tailors are reproducing the tent (which is in the MAR collection). Visitors can see the tailors in action at CW this summer inside the Secretary’s Office. You can learn more at the Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/FirstOvalOffice, and you can watch the action on the live web cam here: http://www.history.org/webcams/tentmaker.cfm

    • Editor said, on June 10, 2013 at 1:22 am

      Thanks, Nicole! All fascinating (I’m especially interested in eighteenth-century tents) -Craig

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