Chaloner Smith (Engraver not ascertained, Class III) 9. Published by C. Shepherd, Oct. 31, 1775 London. Inscribed in plate lower center: “Charles Lee, Efq. / Major General of the Continental Army in America. / Published as the Act directs 31 Octr. 1775 by C. Shepherd”. Inscribed in plate lower left: “Thomlinson pinxt”. Flag inscribed in plate: “An Appeal to Heaven”. The “Appeal to Heaven” flag marks an early print appearance of a flag used by or associated with the Revolution. A fine impression in fine condition aside from slight creases along edges with sheet measuring 15 7/8 x 11 inches.
According to Chaloner, a series of portraits titled Officers of the War of Independence in America were published in London between the years 1775 and 1778. It has been suggested that the prints were produced in anticipation of a demand for news stemming from the conflict in the colonies. Whether or not these prints were based on actual painted portraits remains a subject of speculation, with Chaloner not placing these portraits “among the Fictitious,” whereas Donald Heald believes that these officer prints were not based on actual portraits, but were instead designed using a reproducible model that did not resemble the actual subject. This portrait of Charles Lee, according to Heald, varies significantly from contemporary accounts of Lee and thus falls into the category of invented portraits from this period that illuminate the trans Atlantic desire for news in this period. Heald attributes the engraving to C. Corbutt (pseudonym of R. Purcell), while the inscribed names of both the publisher and painter are pseudonyms as well, if they exist at all.
According to Chaloner Smith, Charles Lee was born in Cheshire around 1730 and later served in Portugal under Burgoyne. He later joined the American forces during the Revolutionary War, but was jealous of Washington and was consequently suspended. He died at Philadelphia on Oct. 2, 1782.