Mezzotint of On Nee Yeath Tow No Riow

On Nee Yeath Tow No Riow or King John of Canajoharie, a mezzotint c.1710 by John Faber the Elder, $29,000 (£22,900) at Tremont Auctions.

Among the highlights was a rare mezzotint of one of the so-called ‘the Four Indian Kings’, the native American chiefs that visited London in 1710.

Based on a series of official portraits commissioned by Queen Anne from the Anglo-Dutch artist John Verelst (1648-1734), these are considered the earliest known surviving portraits from life of the native people of North America.

This example, from a series by John Faber the Elder, is titled On Nee Yeath Tow No Riow or King John of Canajoharie. He was one of three Mohawk chiefs from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) alliance and one Mohican from the Algonquin nations, that were received in London as diplomats and were transported through the streets of the city to St. James Palace in royal carriages. The print was expected to bring $2000-3000 but sold at a muscular $29,000 (£22,900).

It came for sale at Tremont Auctions on February 25 as part of a collection formed by Winfield Robbins (1841-1910) that had been left to his hometown.

During his travels to Europe, Winfield Robbins (1841-1910) collected some 150,000 prints that he later left to Arlington.

Recently approval was given to sell elements of this collection, that are being offered in a series of sales at Tremont Auctions.

Two other mezzotint from the series, including Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row, Emperour of the Six Nations engraved by John Simon and Coning vande Maquas alias Coning Brant engraved by Peter Schenk the Elder were sold by the auction house in August. They made $12,000 and $16,000 respectively.

The portrait of the venerable Congregational minister Cotton Mather published by Peter Pelham in Boston in 1727 is considered the first American mezzotint.

Pelham was already regarded as an accomplished engraver and artist when he arrived in Massachusetts from London but Mather was his first subject on American soil.

Though he posed for Pelham’s painted study (part of the collections at the American Antiquarian Society), the minister would not live to see the final mezzotint as he died four months before the print’s publication.

The copy at Tremont sold for $4200 (£3300), well above the estimate of $400-600. Another example sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2021 for $4000.

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