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Not Like This One: George Washington

George Washington, after Gilbert Stuart

I recently had an email exchange with a gentleman who was inquiring about a painting. The painting is George Washington, after Gilbert Stuart. It is a great example of an unsigned 19th Century portrait and comes from a great collection, the late A. Welling LaGrone’s collection of Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. LaGrone was a noted American antique collector. His apartment was featured in the December 1999 issue of The Magazine Antiques, as was the George Washington painting.

I had been in the market for a 19th Century George Washington for years. I have seen them come and have seen them go. This indeed is a very good example.

Through the course of our conversation, the gentleman stated he had a similar painting he had aquired some years back at a lower cost than my painting. Upon reading this I simply smiled to myself and thought not like this one.

Obviously, not every piece of art or antique can be a superstar. For me, these are the pieces which make my heart skip a beat. Pieces so good you do not want to stop looking at them. Then, when you do, even then most subtle details play over and over in your head. You walk by them everyday and then one day a glimpse out of the corner of your eye: Damn, that is a good painting. Do I really own that?

It is not everyday we come across these great pieces which stir so much emotion in us. It is pretty easy to see how often, when it is said, “Oh, I have one of those,” or “I have something similar to that,” though not in a bragging manner, I often think, but not like this one.


My Latest Obsession

About four years ago I purchased a thirteen star navy gunboat flag. It has a great story, as you will read. Recently, I had it framed. I contacted an authority in the field of vexillology to assist in the project. Without hesitation he knew exactly how we would frame the flag and, indeed, did a beautiful job.

During the time it was being framed, in my idle time, I found myself looking at this website and being so intrigued by how scholarly the world of American flags is. I also must say I was overcome with a sense of patriotism and awe at their beauty.

After the flag arrived and was hanged, it truly was imposing. I sat for lengthy spells just admiring it. Then I reread the information which accompanied the flag when I initially purchased it.

I purchased ths flag from a gentleman, Bill Ebsworth. He had inherited it from his grandfather, Conrad W. Ljungquist. Conrad W. Ljungquist was born in Sweden in 1867 and immigrated to the United States. He joined the Navy when he was 17 as a Third class apprentice and retired in 1924 as a Lieutenant.

He served as an enlisted man on the Minnesota, New Hampshire, Saratoga, Hartford, Independence, Alert, Iroquois, Mohican, Vermont, Dale Triana, St. Louis, Vesuvius Ranger Olympia, Raleigh Wabash and Kersarge.

He participated in the Battle of Manila Bay, bombardment of Manila; Phillippines, Mexican and Necaraguan campaigns and in the First World War on board the USS Salem.

He was awarded three good conduct badges, the Dewy Congressional Medal. Philippine, China, Mexican, Nicaraguan and Victory Campaign badges.

While Chief Gunners Mate on the USS Olympia, he assisted in diving for and blowing up and removing obstructions in the Pasig River, blowing up guns and magazines at Sangley Point, Cavite, and dismantling batteries on the “Luneta” Manilla. The Olympia is now a museum ship anchored in Philadelphia, and he is listed as the Chief Gunners Mate.

He was married to Emma W. Skogland of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1905 at the age of 38. He died in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital at the age of 83.

What made this even more interesting to me is Bill Ebsworth had the flag assessed by vexillologist David Martucci. This assessment also was forwarded to me with the flag. This very thorough and lengthy assessment dated the flag between 1890–1900 by taking into consideration material, star configuration, stitching, rope, and other telltale signs. Everything added up. A wonderful tale of a military career meets a beautiful flag, ART.

The world of antique flags is indeed an interesting, scholarly one and, for the moment, my latest obsession.