"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Henry Clay

This 1842 portrait of Henry Clay by John Neagle hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.
"His admirers called him 'Gallant Harry,' and his impetuous charm made him quite possibly the most beloved politician of his generation. But the real legacy of Kentucky's Henry Clay was his unstinting devotion, in the House of Representatives and later in the Senate, to maintaining a strong American union. In the early 1830s, as southern states threatened to nullify federal authority over a tariff bill that would have hurt plantation economies, Clay set aside his own preference for the new law to orchestrate a compromise. In 1850, with the North and South on the verge of armed conflict over the extension of slavery into the new western territories, Clay again stepped in with proposals that, temporarily at least, satisfied both sections. This last act of his career earned him the title of Great Pacificator." -- National Portrait Gallery

Neagle personally supervised this engraving of his painting by Albert Newsam. (Washington State University)

During the the 1844 election, a poem emerged entitled “Mr. Neagle's Portrait of Henry Clay.” The poem referred not to the bust portrait above but to Neagle's subsequent full-length portrait at the Union League of Philadelphia, a copy of which belongs to the U.S. House of Representatives.

When Philadelphia Whigs commissioned Neagle, in 1842, to paint Clay, Neagle travelled to Frankfort, Kentucky. He first painted the bust portrait and then the full length portrait of Clay, doing Richard Mentor Johnson on the same trip.

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem in defense of Clay in the 1840s, called He is Not Fallen. He soon changed his mind about Clay and tried, unsuccessfully,  to cancel his poem. Read the poem here, and/or read about it here.  Or, check out Thomas Lux' poem in the August 1999 Atlantic, Henry Clay's Mouth

Henry Clay married Lucretia Hart in 1799. The Walters Art Gallery has these 1840 miniatures by an unknown artist of Lucretia Hart Clay and Henry Clay.  They're 2 3/16 in. tall.

Here they are around 1849, their 50th anniversary.

When Henry Clay declared himself the second best farmer in his county, someone asked who was the best. "Why Mrs. Clay, of course." was his reply. 

 The Library of Congress has this c1843 lithograph by J. Peters.

This photo by Frederick De Bourg Richards was taken sometime between 1845 and 1852.

The picture below appeared an ad for Piedmont cigarettes, in the June 1910, Palestine Daily Herald, Palestine, Texas. 

“A Head of Them All”
The Most Noted Southern
Statesman Of His Time

Henry Clay died on June 29, 1852, at the National Hotel, his home in Washington.  After a memorial service in the Senate chamber, he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda on July 1, the first person to receive that honor. His body was moved to Lexington Kentucky where he was buried in the Lexington Cemetery which had been established in 1849. A monument was erected over his grave in 1857. It was finished in 1861 and Clay's remains were moved there after the death of his wife in 1864. The National Register of Historic Places form says that “Julius W. Adams, Lexington civil engineer and architect, drew the plans for the monument, which called for ‘a Corinthian column 120 feet high, surmounted by a colossal figure of Clay’.” Here's what the monument looked like in 1975:

with its “colossal figure of Clay.”

According to the 1975 National Register form, “The 14' statue (in four sections) of clay was carved by two Cincinnati artisans, Ciacoma Bossi and Garabin Giacomo, from a model by Joel T. Hart, Kentucky's noted sculptor.” The National Register form continues:
Lightning hit the Clay figure on the evening of July 23, 1903, destroying the head and shoulders. Charles J. Mulligan of Chicago replaced this portion of the statue after the Kentucky Legislature (in 1908) appropriated $10,000 for the work. On September 21, 1910, lightning again struck the Clay figure tearing off the right hand and shattering the right thigh and leg which cost another $10,000 for repairs. Most recently a piece of the column's capital fell through the tomb's roof. Cemetery records show additional repairs have been needed at least since 1939. Accurate restoration is now under way.
The photos below show the statue, on the left, after being struck by lightning in 1903 and, on the right after the statue was restored in 1910. The accompanying article uses the word “hoodoo” in noting that the statue had again been struck by lightning.

Henry and Lucretia Clay lie in separate sarcophagi in the base of the monument. Here's Cosmos Mariner's photo, from HMdb, of Henry Clay's sarcophagus:

The inscription is from Clay's 1842 Valedictory to the Senate, minus the word “reserved”:

I can with unshaken confidence appeal to that divine Arbiter for the truth of the declaration that I have been influenced by no impure purpose, no personal motive; have sought no personal aggrandizement; but that in all my public acts I have had a single eye directed and a warm and devoted heart dedicated to what, in my best judgment, I believed the true interests, the honor, the union, and the happiness of my country.

 Henry Clay also has a cenotaph in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC.

The Honorable
Henry Clay
A Senator in the
Congress of the
United States.
From the State of
Died 29th June 1852

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