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AUCTION 19

ORIGINAL WATERCOLORS OF NEW MEXICO, ARIZONA, & TEXAS
DRAWN ON SITE IN 1855

35. EATON, Joseph Horace & Frederic Augustus Percy.  6 original watercolor sketches on paper (the five by Eaton on Whatman Turkey Mill paper 1847; the Percy image of Fort Bliss on plain wove paper).  Subjects:  New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.  N.p. [New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas], 1855. Contemporary ink and pencil notes associated with most images.  Provenance:  Direct descendant of William Watt Hart Davis.

The watercolors are the original art work from which engravings were made to accompany William Watt Hart Davis’ El Gringo; or New Mexico and Her People (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1857), one of the earliest full-length books on New Mexico in English.  These watercolors are important, early images of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas made by eyewitnesses.  Images created by trained artists in nineteenth-century Texas are very rare, and somewhat rare for New Mexico and Arizona. Eaton’s and Percy’s paintings are unpretentious, on-the-spot images, which in their simplicity beautifully document the West and Borderlands without mythology or drama.  As early images of the Southwest, these watercolors rank with the U.S. iconography of Abert, Emory, and Bartlett. 

List of watercolors:

Images (click to enlarge)

(1)  EATON, Joseph Horace.  Cañoncito Bonito:  [Title in ink in Eaton’s hand on verso of image] “`Cañoncito Bonito’ Navajo country N. Mex Site of `Fort Defiance’ Looking South to the Calitis Mountain” [in pencil at right] “5400”; [manuscript title in ink, unidentified hand (Davis?) on original paper label mounted to later paper]: “Cañoncito Bonito Nabajo Country, New Mexico, Site of Fort Defiance / looking South to the Calitis Mountain. 1855. N.Y. Eaton.” Original watercolor and graphite sketch. 11.9 x 18.8 cm.   Depicted is a landscape with structures and U.S. flag in middle distance, the whole surrounded by mountains.  The location depicted is in present-day Arizona at a Navajo reservation, at the mouth of Canyon Bonito about seven miles north of Window Rock, Arizona, and twenty-five miles northwest of Gallup, New Mexico. This images appears in Davis’ book as “Cañoncito Bonito” (p. 403); the image is basically the same in the printed and watercolor versions.  Condition report:  Except for faint marginal mat burn, very fine.  Watercolor affixed to later paper.

(2)  EATON, Joseph Horace. Upper Covero:  [Title in pencil on verso of image]  “Upper Covero is a small Mexican settlement near the San Mateo mountain, road from Albuquerque to Fort Defiance. N. Mex.o  5407”; [manuscript title in ink (Davis?) on label attached to sheet used for frame backing]:  “Upper Covero, near San Mateo mountain, on the road from Albuquerque to Fort Defiance, New Mexico, 1854 [corrected to 1855].  Eaton”  Original watercolor and ink sketch.  11.8 x 18.6 cm.  Backing with printed label of Philadelphia framer James S. Earle & Son, Earles’ Galleries, No. 816 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia (prominent framing and portrait gallery in Philadelphia during the latter part of the nineteenth century).  Landscape showing a pueblo set against distant mountains with animals and herdsmen in foreground.  This image appears in Davis’ book as “Upper Covero” (p. 398); printed and watercolor images are essentially the same except for minor changes to herdsmen and animals in foreground.  Davis in his printed text refers to “Covera” and notes it is also called “Quivera.”  There is a town named Quivera in present-day Eastern Arizona.  Condition report:  Except for faint marginal mat burn, very fine. 

(3) EATON, Joseph Horace. Lower Covero: [on verso of watercolor] “Drawn in 1855 By Lt. Col. Eaton U.S.A. [in pencil at top, probably in Eaton’s handwriting; below which is pencil title in another hand] “Lower Covero a small Mexican settlement near the San Mateo mountain, road from Albuquerque to Fort Defiance N. Mex.o” [in pencil at right]: “5400”; [manuscript title in ink on original paper label mounted to later paper in handwriting and with signature of Eaton] “Lower Corso [corrected in another hand (Davis?) to “Covero”], a small Mexican settlement near the San Matteo mountains on the road from Albuquerque to Fort Defiance N.M. drawn in 1855 by Lt. Col. Eaton U.S.A.” [crossed out in another hand (Davis?) is date 1854 in ink; below the original label is a hand-written pencil note by Davis] “Col. Eaton was A.D.C. to General Taylor, Mexican War--These water colors were painted for me while I lived in New Mexico - 1853-57  W. W. H. D[avis].”  Original watercolor and graphite sketch.  11.5 x 18.4 cm.  Landscape showing a pueblo set against a high rocky bluff; foreground with a river and a man and woman driving two cattle.  The image was used as the frontispiece to Davis’ book; the engraved image has added detail.  Condition report:  Except for faint marginal mat burn, very fine.

(4)  EATON, Joseph Horace.  Don Fernandez de Taos:  [Title in ink in Eaton’s hand on verso of watercolor] “View of Don Fernando de Taos N.M. Looking E of North to the Taos Mountains” [in pencil] “5407”; [manuscript title in ink (Davis?) on original paper label mounted to later paper board]:  “Don Fernandes de Taos, Looking N.E. to the Taos Mts. New Mexico” with framer’s printed label of Earle (see 3 above).  Original watercolor and graphite sketch.  12.7 x 19.8 cm.  Landscape showing Taos pueblo in middle ground,  surrounded by mountains in background, equestrian figure in foreground.  The image was used on p. 301 in Davis’ book; the engraved image was modified, such as tightening up and more clearly defining the architecture.  Condition report:  Except for occasional light discoloration, fine.

(5)  EATON, Joseph Horace.  Fray Cristobal Mountains:   [Title in ink in Eaton’s hand on verso of watercolor] “View of Fra Cristoval Mountains (showing the profile of the Monk’s head) N. Mexo (Looking southward from Fort Craig” [in pencil] “5404”; [manuscript title in ink in Eaton’s hand on original paper label mounted to later paper used for backing on frame]:  “View of Fra Cristoval Mts. showing profile of Monk’s Head looking South from Fort Craig” [below in ink in Davis’ hand] “No. 3 1885 [altered in pencil to 1855]” with framer’s printed label of Earle (see 3 above).  Original watercolor and graphite sketch.  12.7 x 19.7 cm.  Landscape showing mountains, including Monk’s Head.  Davis notes in the printed text that Fray Cristobal is the northern terminus of the Jornada del Muerto, or the dreaded Journey of Death. Fort Craig was established in 1854.  Condition report:  Except for very slight browning to margin where formerly framed, very fine.

(6)  PERCY, Frederic Augustus Percy.  Fort Bliss:  [Title in ink on recto of image at upper right] “Fort Bliss Texas looking east by F. A. Percy for W. W. H. Davis” [lower right] “1855”;  [Title in ink in Davis’ hand on paper label on original wooden frame back]:  “Fort Bliss, Texas, Looking East:  By F. B. [sic] Percey [sic]. For W. W. H. Davis.”  Original watercolor and ink sketch. 13.6 x 21.3 cm.  Panoramic view showing interior of Fort Bliss with troops on parade, large U.S. flag flying at center.  The image is quite similar to the printed image in Davis’ book, except in the printed image two figures have been added to the foreground (p. 377).   Condition report:  Tacked at upper left corner on later paper.  Faint marginal mat burn.  Vertical crease where formerly folded.  Two clean splits at extremities of fold and two other small tears in margins (no loss of image).  Moderately browned and slightly wrinkled. 

This art work was commissioned by William Watt Hart Davis (1820-1910), who at the time was active in the government of the newly established Territory of New Mexico, in which he served as U.S. district attorney, attorney general, secretary of the Territory, superintendent of public buildings, superintendent of Indian affairs, and acting governor. He also published the Santa Fe Gazette in Spanish and English for two and a half years. Prior to his New Mexican sojourn, Davis left Harvard after his first semester to join the Mexican-American War, enlisted in the First Regiment of the Massachusetts Infantry commanded by Colonel Caleb Cushing, and mustered out as a captain on July 19, 1848.  Davis later went on to achieve a measure of military fame in the Civil War (breveted Brigadier General for meritorious service during the siege of Charleston).  Davis eventually became an important American philanthropist and historian. 

Artist Eaton (1815-1896), one of the few trained artists who worked in the Southwest U.S. and Mexico during two decades of pivotal changes in the Borderlands, graduated from West Point in 1835. He then served on the frontier, taught infantry tactics at West Point, and fought in the Mexican-American War, where he served as General Zachary Taylor's aide-de-camp. During the Civil War he was a paymaster and was brevetted Brigadier General.  Eaton had a long career as mapmaker and artist in the Borderlands.  He created maps for the survey published in 1838 to prepare for removal of obstructions from the Sabine River in order to facilitate navigation. In 1846 he prepared the official U.S. Army maps for the Mexican-American War battles fought on Texas soil, and contributed to the illustrations in W. S. Henry’s Campaign Sketches of the War with Mexico (1847).  Eaton was also involved in the creation of what has been called the second most important map relating to the Mexican-American War, A Correct Map of the Seat of War in Mexico. Being a Copy of Genl. Arista’s Map, published in 1847 and associated with John Disturnell, J. Goldsborough Bruff, and Mariano Arista.

Not a great deal is known about artist Frederic Augustus Percy, who executed the watercolor of Fort Bliss.  Percy was an Englishman living in the El Paso region in the-mid 1850s.  He is best known as author-artist of the hand-written illustrated newsletter El Sabio Sembrador, of which only a single copy survives. It is believed Percy died in Mexico in 1868.  Other examples of Percy’s work can be found in Rex W. Strickland, El Paso in 1854 (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1969).

Other known images from this series created for Davis’ book El Gringo are documented in The West Explored:  The Gerald Peters Collection of Western American Art (1988; see Plate 7, Pueblo of Taos, New Mexico, South Pueblo and Plate 8, Santa Fe, New Mexico).  Kelsey, Engraved Prints of Texas 4.140 (noting the engraved image of Fort Bliss in Davis’ book, as the first listed engraved view of Fort Bliss).  ($100,000-200,000)

Auction 19 Short Title List | Auction 19 Prices Realized


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