Classic Week throughlines From great conquerors to 175 years of liquid history

Classic Week throughlines: From great conquerors to 175 years of liquid history

What links a bronze sculpture of George Washington to a collection of centuries-old brandies? Among other things, the first calendar watch made entirely on American soil

From the late 1890s, the French painter and sculptor Jean-Leon Gérôme (1824-1904) began work on a series of equestrian portraits of historical figures from antiquity through to the 19th century, taking a keen interest in ‘reviewing all of the great conquerors of the earth’. 

Jean-Léon Gérôme (Vésoul, Haute-Saône 1824-1904 Paris), Washington à cheval (‘Washington on his horse’). Bronze, dark brown patina 31 78 in. (80 cm.) high, 29 ½ in. (75 cm.) wide. Estimate $60,000-80,000. This lot is offered in the Revolution Sale on 13 April at Christie’s New York

Jean-Léon Gérôme (Vésoul, Haute-Saône 1824-1904 Paris), Washington à cheval (‘Washington on his horse’). Bronze, dark brown patina 31 7/8 in. (80 cm.) high, 29 ½ in. (75 cm.) wide. Estimate: $60,000-80,000. This lot is offered in the Revolution Sale on 13 April at Christie’s New York

In addition to this impressively detailed bronze of George Washington, conceived in 1901, the artist also realized groups of Bonaparte entering Cairo (1897), Tamerlane (1898), Frederick the Great (1899) and Caesar Crossing the Rubicon (1900).

In creating his Washington sculpture, Gérôme would have been heavily influenced by both contemporary and historic renderings of his exploits during the American Revolution, such as Jonathan Trumbull’s 1792 portrait of General George Washington at Trenton, and Scottish painter John Faed’s c. 1899 work, George Washington Taking the Salute at Trenton. Works such as these helped Gérôme to render an historically accurate of... 

...America’s founding father, who would appoint Henry Voight (1738–1814) as chief coiner of the first US Mint. In addition to being an accomplished coinmaker, Voight also had a thriving clock and watchmaking business, made mathematical instruments and built steam engines.

The Henry Voight-Francis Bailey American Calendar Watch. A highly technologically advanced and historically important silver calendar watch. Estimate $200,000-300,000. This lot is offered in the Exceptional Sale on 13 April at Christie’s New York

The Henry Voight-Francis Bailey American Calendar Watch. A highly technologically advanced and historically important silver calendar watch. Estimate: $200,000-300,000. This lot is offered in the Exceptional Sale on 13 April at Christie’s New York

This silver calendar watch by Voight is the earliest known made entirely on American soil, and was created for Francis Bailey (1744-1817), the first printer of the Articles of Confederation, the precursor to the U.S. Constitution. This watch, then, not only plays a key role in the history of American horology, but is deeply associated with the birth of a nation.

Francis Bailey was the first person to describe Washington as the ‘father of his country’. Washington became America’s first president in 1789, the year in which an extremely rare bottle of Grande Champagne Cognac was produced. This bottle is the earliest in a unique vertical comprising 39 bottles of vintage Cognac and Armagnac, each dating to a United States presidential term, spanning George Washington to Jimmy Carter.

The American Presidential Cognac and Armagnac Collection. A unique vertical of vintage Cognac and Armagnac from each U.S. Presidential term from George Washington through Jimmy Carter. Vintage dated 1789 through 1977. Estimate $100,000-150,000. This lot is offered in the Exceptional Sale on 13 April at Christie’s New York

The American Presidential Cognac and Armagnac Collection. A unique vertical of vintage Cognac and Armagnac from each U.S. Presidential term from George Washington through Jimmy Carter. Vintage dated 1789 through 1977. Estimate: $100,000-150,000. This lot is offered in the Exceptional Sale on 13 April at Christie’s New York

The vertical, which has been assembled by collector Bay van der Bunt, includes a Cognac des Tuileries 1818 (James Monroe), a Marnier-Lapostolle Château de Bourg 1865 (Abraham Lincoln), a Réserve Spéciale, Bas-Armagnac 1881 from the 200-day term of the assassinated James Garfield, a Courvoisier 1884 (Chester Arthur), and an Armagnac Sempé 1961 from the 33-month term of John F. Kennedy.

Cognac and Armagnac are among the most stable of spirits, and can be enjoyed when even centuries old. These rare vintages offer an extraordinary journey through American history.