A Sir Joshua Reynolds portrait of British born New York Mariner and American partriot Captain Benjamin Davies, painted in 1761, has been handed down from generation to generation until now. Grogan and Company Fine Art Auctioneers and Appraisers
will be offering the portrait in their December Auction on Sunday, December 11th at 12:00 noon. The 400 lot auction will also be comprised of a Fine Collection of Classic Chinese Furniture, Chinese Decorative Works of Art and Textiles; American and European Paintings, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture; and Oriental Rugs and Carpets.
Benjamin Davies was born in 1728 in Bristol, England and immigrated to New York in 1750. His seafaring career began with a voyage to China, as an apprentice to Captain William Sedgwick, Commander of the London East India Company Service. He also accompanied Captain George Jackson to India before taking passage to New York in 1850 aboard the Neptune. In 1753 he married Elizabeth Viscount, a recent widow of Dutch descent. The next 13 years was spent in the seafaring trade with many partners, much of which is documented in his Diaries, currently located in the Colgate papers at Yale University Library.
In 1765, when the Stamp Act was to be established in the Colonies, Davies took command of the ship Hope and sailed to England with his wife Elisabeth to secure items for his mercantile business. While there, he had a pendant portrait made of his wife with the ship Hope in the background to match the earlier portrait he commissioned from Sir Joshua Reynolds. The Beekman Mercantile Papers at the New York Historical Society contains references to Benjamin Davies making multiple voyages as Captain of the ship Hope between England and American between 1765-1771.
The painter of Elisabeth is yet to be determined, however, the Davies portrait has been included in David Mannings Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, published in 2000 (item #485). The earliest mention of the Reynolds portrait in the family archives is a note mentioning a Portrait of Captain Davies by Sir Joshua Reynolds exhibited by Samuel Davies Craig, his grandson, at the 1818 American Academy and Art Union Exhibition of Fine Arts. A 1970 letter from Professor Waterhouse of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, states
it is quite obviously by Reynolds and I have no doubt it is the picture exhibited in 1818
The Reynolds portrait of Davies and the unattributed portrait of his wife Elisabeth are being sold together with an estimate of $3,000-5,000.