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Texas buys rare Jim Bowie portrait

AUSTIN, Texas, June 28 -- The only known from-life portrait of Jim Bowie going to Texas, where he died in 1836 at the Alamo fighting for independence from Mexico.

The oil-on-canvas portrait of a solemn-looking Bowie, painted by George Peter Alexander Healy, was purchased for a bid of $321,875 at a San Francisco auction, officials confirmed Thursday.

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Gov. Rick Perry said Texas officials acted quickly to keep the painting from going to non-Texas bidders.

"We had very short notice that this painting was being auctioned, and this presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.

The State Preservation Board, headed by Perry, and the Texas Historical Commission put up the successful bid of $321,875. The actual purchase price of the painting was $290,000, the remainder covering commissions and other costs, Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said.

The portrait will join from-life portraits of other Texas heroes, like Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, and David Crockett, in the Capitol Historical Artifact Collection, but the location for the permanent display of the Bowie portrait has not been determined.

"It could go to the House chamber where there is a copy of the painting, possibly the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, or a number of other places," Walt said.

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In the 35-by-28-inch portrait, Bowie is dressed in black clothing with his arms crossed on his chest. The hilt of an ornate sword is visible in his right hand. It apparently was painted about 1825 in New Orleans, according to Butterfields Auctioneers in San Francisco.

The painting was from the estate of Muriel Vernet Moore, a Bowie descendant who died in 1991 at New Orleans at the age of 99.

Bowie, a native of Louisiana, moved to Texas in 1830 and later joined the battle for independence from Mexico. He shared command with William Barrett Travis at the Alamo and was killed by the Mexican army along with about 200 other defenders March 6, 1836.

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