title: A Durable Memento

Liberian Senate

Liberian Senate

This naively rendered watercolor represents the principal figures of the Liberian Senate in poses echoing those found in a group of eleven, laterally-reversed, daguerreotype portraits attributed to Augustus Washington. The watercolor and the daguerreotypes may have been intended to serve as the basis for an engraving of the Liberian Senate modeled after prints of the United States Senate that were enjoying wide circulation. One such print was sent to the government of Liberia as a gift from Philadelphia merchant and American Colonization Society supporter Benjamin Coates in 1855. When the engraving arrived in Monrovia, it was prominently displayed in Liberia's Senate chamber, and may have inspired plans to produce a similar representation of the Liberian Senate.

While it would have been impossible to successfully daguerreotype the full Senate group within the Senate chamber, an artist's rendering of the scene, as well as individual daguerreotypes of the senators and their colleagues, would have provided much of the visual information needed by a printmaker to produce a Liberian Senate image. The existence of this watercolor, as well as the related daguerreotype portraits credited to Washington, lends credence to the theory that the American Colonization Society or one of its state auxiliaries may have contemplated sponsorship of such a print. Regrettably, there is no evidence that such a project ever came to fruition.

Robert K. Griffin (born circa 1836)
Watercolor and graphite on paper, circa 1857
Image courtesy Marian S. Carson Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


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