A rare portrait of Robert E. Lee will be showcased at the Museum of the
Confederacy in January to celebrate the Confederate general’s 200th
birthday. "If you look at all the books about Robert E. Lee, this painting is not in
them," said Waite Rawls, the museum’s president and CEO. "I think it’s that
mystery that is so intriguing. When was it painted and under what
The owner of the painting, who does not want to be identified, purchased it
at an estate sale in Richmond in February. Since then, he’s been researching its
past, with help from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, libraries and the
Internet. Still, questions remain. "We don’t know if Lee sat for the painting or whether it was painted from a
photo," said the owner, a Henrico County resident who typically displays the art
in his living room.
Another mystery surrounds its age. It dates to at least 1868, when artist
Thomas B. Welch showed it in a juried exhibition in Paris. "We don’t know where it’s been since then," the owner said. "It’s
frustrating. I want to know." One thing he is sure about is his good fortune. "I went to the estate sale, and there it was hanging over the fireplace," he
said. "I wasn’t going to pass it up."
The owner of the painting has allowed the MOC to make copies for sale ($300) in hopes that the proceeds will help its financial situation. It might be worth purchasing as it is a limited printing and it will benefit the MOC. Click here to see the image.