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2024 Summer Fine Art & Antiques (Day 1)

Sat, Jul 6, 2024 09:00AM EDT
Lot 560

Portrait of Civil War Col. Randal McGavock by Geo. Dury

Estimate: $8,000 - $10,000

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$0 $10
$100 $25
$500 $50
$1,000 $100
$3,000 $200
$5,000 $500
$10,000 $1,000
$20,000 $2,000
$50,000 $5,000
$100,000 $10,000

George Dury (American/Tennessee, 1817-1894) oil on canvas painting depicting Colonel Randal William McGavock, CSA, in uniform, half-length, against a dark, indistinct background. Unsigned. The oval canvas is housed in a heavily carved antique giltwood and composition Louis XV frame with swept edges, rocaille carved corners and centers, and carved spandrels.  Sight - 30"H x 25"W. Frame - 46 12"H x 41 1/2"W.

Note: Randal McGavock (1826-1863) was one of the most colorful figures in Nashville history. A descendant of one of Nashville's prominent founding Scotch Irish families, he attended Harvard Law School and traveled extensively in Europe as a young man (sending back regular articles for the Nashville Union Newspaper, which were eventually re-published under the title "A Tennesseean Abroad"). He settled back home in Nashville, where he opened a law practice, became active in politics, and enjoyed life as one of the city's most eligible bachelors. In 1853 McGavock surprised his friends and family by eloping with Seraphine Deery - a union that produced considerable personal drama, but no children. In 1856, "Randy Mac," as he became known, was elected Mayor of Nashville at the age of 30, and he served as a delegate to the 1860 Democratic Convention. The Civil War cut short his promising political career. McGavock formed his own regiment made up largely of the Irish-American citizens who had helped elect him as mayor, paying for their fine grey and scarlet uniforms with his own money. His regiment, D Company, Tennessee Home Guards (State Militia), also known as the Rebel Sons of Erin, was sent to Forts Henry and Donelson and eventually designated as the Tenth Tennessee Infantry, Irish, Company H; McGavock was elected Lt. Colonel, second in command under Adolphus Heiman. McGavock was extremely popular with his men, paying for moonshine and fine food from his own pocket.

The Confederate defeat at the Battle of Fort Donelson resulted in McGavock being taken prisoner and sent to Camp Chase and then to an officer's prison at Camp Warren outside Boston (where McGavock used the opportunity to have some clothes made by his old tailor from his Harvard days). Following his release, the 10th was reorganized and McGavock and his men were sent to Snyder's Bluff, Chickasaw Bluff, then on to Port Hudson, Mississippi, and, in May of 1863, to the small town of Raymond, MS, to stop Grant's advance on Vicksburg. While engaged with General Gregg and his 2,730 soldiers against General MacPherson and his army of 5,500, Col. McGavock led a daring advance and was fatally struck by a Union mini ball directly in the heart. After the War, McGavock's remains were moved to Nashville's Mt. Olivet Cemetery, where he was buried in a large public ceremony on St. Patrick's Day, 1866.

This portrait has long been attributed to George Dury, who painted many members of the McGavock family, including Randal McGavock's younger brother Hugh, who died at the age of 12. According to family history, the visible damage to this portrait occurred during the latter part of the Civil War when a Union soldier entered the McGavock family's Union-occupied Nashville home and slashed the painting with a sword. Exhibited, Two Rivers Mansion, Nashville, c. 1990, and Carnton Plantation, Franklin, c. 2000. This painting was the cover image for the book, "Pen and Sword: The Life of Randal McGavock," based on McGavock's extensive lifetime writings and diaries and published by the Tennessee Historical Commission in 1960. It is one of only two known oil portraits of McGavock. The other, picturing him at about age 21, is in the collection of the Nashville Public Library. A cameo brooch portrait of McGavock, which he commissioned from the Saulini Workshop in Rome during his Grand Tour of Europe circa 1851, was sold by Case in 2008 for $8,731. 

PROVENANCE: By descent in the family of Randal McGavock.


2" L separation of canvas from lining in the upper right hand quadrant, background and several other, less prominent separations at lower right edge and upper left corner. Scattered areas of craquelure, notably to the center button area of coat and to the lower left quadrant, background. Painting has a long repaired tear extending from the upper right edge across subject's face to the middle of the center-left background, intersecting another tear extending from the center-left background down subject's mid-chest. Tear repair is failing and causing canvas to pucker. Infill repair along tear and at subject's right shoulder. 1" repaired tear in background, upper left quadrant. UV light inspection reveals some additional touchup paint to forehead and to background areas. Note: The portrait received a lead lining treatment, some restoration, and cleaning 75-100 years ago, prior to being inherited by the consignor, and has not been treated since. 

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If paying with wire transfer, please use the following information:
Bank: Pinnacle Bank
150 Third Avenue South, Suite 900
Nashville, TN 37201
Phone # (865) 766-3000
Swift Code: PNFPUS44
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4310 Papermill Drive
Knoxville, TN 37909
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By descent in the family of Randal McGavock.