BOLDLY SIGNED BY ROBERT E. LEE, A VINTAGE ALBUMEN PRINT OF A FINAL PORTRAIT OF LEE, TAKEN ONLY MONTHS BEFORE HIS DEATH
LEE, Robert E. Photograph signed. Lexington, Virginia, 1870. Vintage albumen print (4 by 5-1/2 inches) with signature in manuscript hand on the recto, mounted on ivory card stock. Beautifully silk matted and framed, entire piece measures 13 by 12 inches.
Vintage albumen print—a rare cabinet photograph—featuring a a final portrait of Robert E. Lee, signed by the General only months before his death, taken while sitting for the famed bust by sculptor Edward Valentine.
Considered the last photograph of General Robert E. Lee, this exceptional portrait was taken at the request of sculptor Edward Valentine, then working on his famed bust of the General. At the time Lee was President of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia. As sittings began in June 1870, Valentine recalled that “I thought it would be to my advantage to secure pictures of Lee in different positions. He kindly consented to go to a photograph gallery and I had several taken of him” (Riley, General Robert E. Lee, 154). That “gallery” was the studio of Boude and Miley, and this vintage albumen print, signed “R. E. Lee” at the lower edge of the print, is from an original glass plate negative taken by photographer Michael Miley, a veteran of the Confederate army. Miley is also famed for his earlier portrait of a uniformed Lee astride his horse Traveler (1866). Only a few months after this carte-de-visite was produced, Lee suffered a stroke and died on October 12th. “The documentation of the Civil War by photographs in carte-de-visite formats represents one of the few remaining untapped sources of contemporary Civil War information” (Darrah, 87). Print mounted on heavy card stock with the inked notation on the verso, “Put up by R.E. Shawood,” written above the backstamp: “Photographed by Boude & Miley, Lexington, VA.” Mounted on the same folio sheet, beneath the portrait, is a partial leaf penciled on the verso reading: “This was given to Uncle Will C— when he attended Washington & Lee University. Lee was Pres. Will C— was my father’s bro. & was in Civil War. He never married. Was in Battle of Perryville. I promised this is also the picture of Lee and one of his — [unclear].”
Albumen print faded (as often); card stock with mild toning at edges (not affecting print), partially affecting several printed initials beneath intact print. Highly desirable and scarce signed.