Robert E. Lee Salt Print Autographed in Richmond, Virginia, May 23, 1865
Oval salt print, 5.25 x 7.25 in., on gilt-bordered, 8 x 9.75 in. mount, signed directly below the portrait in Robert E. Lee's distinctive hand. The mount also bears the following inscription: Richmond Va/ May 23, 1865/ Signed by Gen. Lee/ with his own/ hand at my request/ J.H. Watson. Several hundred Confederate soldiers named "J. Watson" are listed on HDS, which makes it difficult to confirm the identity of the original owner of this rare portrait, autographed by Gen. Lee over a month after he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.
The portrait was produced in 1864 by J. Vannerson, a Richmond photographer whose work ranked with that of Mathew Brady. Upon the request of several Richmond women who wanted new pictures of Lee, he sat, dressed in his best, for Vannerson. Supposedly, the photographer took four views of Lee, but only three exist, including this fine portrait, which was widely circulated and was eventually reproduced as both lithographs and engravings. The portrait has also had a major influence on artists who have tried to portray Lee over the years (Meredith, 1981: 40-44).
Even toning to image. Photograph has lightened, some spotting, small areas of discoloration. Few small, scattered surface abrasions on image and mount. Some soiling to image and mount. Lee's signature and Watson's inscription are in very good condition overall, with very slight fading.