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to the
I. W. Wells
Salon No. 9

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Gen. Geo. Washington in Prayer at Valley Forge
By I. W. Wells, September 1868

Pyrography on rectangular wood panel,
23 in. wide by 29 in. tall

Image courtesy of Invaluable Auctions

Gen. Geo. Washington in Prayer at Valley Forge, Detail of the Two Figures
By I. W. Wells, September 1868

Pyrography on rectangular wood panel,
23 in. wide by 29 in. tall

Image courtesy of the Invaluable auction site

Up for auction on February 24th of 2015 at the Invaluable auction site linked here, is the Wells pyrographic panel exhibited above, which was done after an 1854 painting by German immigrant artists Lambert Sachs (1818–1903) and Paul Weber (1823–1916). This is Wells' earlier panel (by a decade) of a similar version of this composition and apparently done on commission. The later one, exhibited in Salon No. 6, was likely done thinking of the centennial of the event depicted. Like that one, the panel exhibited here also is in need of some restoration.

Although the auction house did not make mention of the inscription recto, the Wells' pyrographic panel exhibited here likely includes, below the image of General George Washington, the story, likewise in pyrography, of what is represented there, as follows:
"In the month of June 1778, a short time before the American Army left their encampment at Valley Forge, a respectable old Quaker by the name of Potts happened one morning to pass through the woods bordering on headquarters. On emerging from the woods his attention was attracted to a spot in the bushes whence proceeded the sound of a human voice. He drew nigh and was much surprised to behold the General In Chief himself, on his knees and in the act of fervent and audible prayer. The old Quaker could then overhear that part of the General's prayer in which "he thanked God for the blessings bestowed on him and, alluding in humble terms to his own weakness, implored the protection of his Heavenly Father for the success of the arduous mission He had imposed upon him, and finally prayed Him with filial devotion to bless the sword He had placed in his hand to protect and defend the rights and liberties of his fellow countrymen."
The title of the panel is readily visible below the composition and heading the above story. According to the Invaluable auction site, there is an inscription, verso, which reads:
"Burnt for Mr J H Jones by J W Wells, September 1868"
Note that the artist's name could easily be interpreted as J. W. Wells rather than I. W. Wells because of the artist's calligraphic style; this is what the auction house seems to have done. However, the same is true of the signature shown for this artist in his inscription on the 1866 panel in the Pinto Collection of the Birmingham Museum in the U.K. where his name is shown as I.W. Wells, as it is by Edward and Eva Pinto in their 1970 book, as well.

It is worth noting, also, that Wells' upper case I in the title "Independence" on the verso of his panel, exhibited in his Salon No. 4, looks very much like the first initial of his (or her?) name, as does the upper case J in January that appears in the inscription verso on his 1879 panel entitled "Pharaoh's Horses," exhibited in his Salon No. 8.

A picture of a Wells work can be seen in the companion book that was written by Edward and Eva Pinto, the original owners of that work and of about 19 others that were acquired by the Birmingham Museums and today form the Pinto Collection there. Four works in pyrography are on display at the web site of the Pinto Collection in Birmingham, England, although not their work by I. W. Wells.

Susan Millis, who has an advanced degree in the conservation and restoration of pyrographic works, has studied at length and under magnification the works in the Pinto Collection. She is encouraged that the 1868 Wells work "Gen. Geo. Washington in Prayer at Valley Forge." displayed here could well be by the same artist who did the 1866 panel "Waiting for the Plough" that is in England. Notes on that important collection, including on I. W. Wells, were given by Susan Millis in an interview for Pyrograffiti at the link here.

If you have either any questions to ask or any additional information to offer about I. W. Wells or this panel by him, please e-mail the E-Museum Curator.

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I. W. Wells Salon No. 9

You can also visit the

I. W. Wells Salon No. 8,

I. W. Wells Salon No. 7,

I. W. Wells Salon No. 6,

I. W. Wells Salon No. 5,

I. W. Wells Salon No. 4,

I. W. Wells Salon No. 3,

I. W. Wells Salon No. 2,

I. W. Wells Salon No. 1,

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© 2015 Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.
14 February 2015.