[image-1]A portrait of Henry Middleton, founder of Middleton Place, and the first president of the Continental Congress, has been identified in London. The portrait was painted by Benjamin West, according to the press release:

A previously unknown portrait considered to be of Henry Middleton, a leading figure in colonial America and one of the country’s first ‘Presidents’, has been discovered in England. It is painted by the American portraitist Benjamin West (1717-1784) and was found by portrait specialist Philip Mould during the dispersal of goods from Shrublands Park in Suffolk, England, the ancestral home of the sitter’s brother, William.

Henry Middleton was born in South Carolina in 1717 and brought up at his father’s plantation, ‘The Oaks’, in Charleston. In the years preceding the Revolution he held a number of high offices including Justice of the Peace, member of the King’s Council in America, and member of the South Carolina House of Commons. In 1755 he became commissioner of Native American affairs. In 1774 he was elected President of the First Continental Congress, the body that petitioned British King George III for “peace, liberty, and safety” as a precursor to full independence. Henry Middleton’s son, Arthur Middleton, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Middleton Place, Henry’s home in historic Charleston, survives to this day. The identity of the portrait is based in part on the sitter’s distinctive gold clothes, which can still be seen at his house together with another version of the same portrait, also by West, currently on display there.

Philip Mould said: ‘It is not often that a portrait of such historical significance to America turns up on English soil. We hope that he will return to the country where his life helped shape great national events.”

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