“BILLY SHANE”-LARGE HAND-COLORED LITHOGRAPHIC PLATE FROM ONE OF THE GREATEST AMERICAN COLOR-PLATE BOOKS: LEWIS’ ABORIGINAL PORTFOLIO, 1835-36
LEWIS, James Otto. “Billy Shane: A Shawnee Chief,” from the Aboriginal Portfolio. [Philadelphia: Lehman & Duval, circa 1835]. Large hand-colored lithograph, sheet measures 11-3/4 by 19 inches. $750.
Original hand-colored lithograph of Shawnee Chief Billy Shane from Lewis’ Aboriginal Portfolio, “the first attempt of the kind in this country” (original advertisement), preceding the works of both Thomas McKenney and James Hall, and George Catlin.
In 1823 Detroit artist James O. Lewis painted the first of his Indian portraits at the request of Governor Lewis Cass of Michigan. “Between 1825 and 1827, he accompanied Governor Cass on three treaty-making trips into the Indian country and painted some two hundred Indian portraits. Of these, about forty-five were sent to Thomas McKenney, who then had them copied in oils for his famous gallery. Lewis, however, beat McKenney to press with a project of his own. He was evidently embittered by McKenney’s well-publicized plan to publish the gallery. More than one-third of the paintings were based on Lewis’ original drawings, yet he would receive neither recognition nor recompense.” Lewis’ own Aboriginal Portfolio was originally published between 1835 and 1836, in ten parts, each of which included eight plates. However, because a substantial number of subscribers defaulted on payment, very few of the last two parts were issued and complete sets with all eighty plates are now extremely rare. This portrait of “Billy Shane: A Shawnee Chief” was originally painted by Lewis in 1827 and was later destroyed with the rest of his paintings in the Smithsonian fire of 1865. Michigan Indian agent Henry Schoolcraft, who had accompanied Lewis when the sketches were made, noted, “Few artists have had his means of observation of the aboriginal man, in the great panorama of the West.” His Aboriginal Portfolio “deserved ‘patronage as a first and original effort’ and ‘we should cherish all such efforts… Sales were so poor that today the lithographs are rare and valued collector’s items” (Viola, 79). See Bennett, 68; Eberstadt 131:418; Field 936; Sabin 40812; Howes J135.
Impression and hand-coloring very bright. Fine condition.