Frame: 155.9 x 121.9 x 9.2cm (61 3/8 x 48 x 3 5/8")
Born Charles Town (now Charleston), South Carolina
South Carolina merchant and planter Henry Laurens, sent by the Continental Congress to secure a much-needed loan from Holland, was captured by the British on the high seas and imprisoned for fifteen months in the Tower of London. Finally exchanged after the Battle of Yorktown for General Charles Cornwallis, Laurens posed for his portrait in his capacity as president of the Continental Congress (1777–78). Shortly thereafter he was instructed to join Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams as a member of the peace commission. Laurens arrived in Paris just two days before the preliminary treaty bringing the Revolutionary War to a close was signed on November 30, 1782. He inserted a line in the treaty to prevent the British army from “carrying away any Negroes or other property.” During the war, the British had destabilized the South by promising to liberate slaves who fled from their masters; many did so, and this clause was intended to restore those slaves to their masters.
Richard Bagwell [1840-1918], Marlfield House, Clonmel, Ireland; his widow Harriet Bagwell; (Lewis and Simmons, London); sold 29 March 1920 to Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York; sold as part of Clarke collection through (M. Knoedler and Co., New York) January 29, 1936 to The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift to National Gallery of Art 1942; transferred 1965 to NPG.