An Iconic Revolutionary War Image
Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware" is a significant piece in the tapestry of American art. This 1853 engraved image of Leutze's iconic and now lost painting, expertly executed by Paul Girardet, offers viewers a detailed glimpse into a crucial moment during the American Revolutionary War.
In the engraving, the expansive Delaware River unfolds before the viewer. Its waters, filled with chunks of floating ice, signify the obstacles that lay ahead. Amidst this challenging environment, a series of boats make their way across, carrying soldiers and their General, George Washington. Washington's stance is upright and resolute, reflecting his leadership and the weight of the mission at hand.
The organization of the scene is thoughtfully composed. Leutze arranges the boats, soldiers, and elements of the river in a manner that conveys the gravity of the situation. The soldiers, clad in a mix of uniforms, mirror the varied experiences and backgrounds of those who came together for the cause of independence.
Girardet's engraving technique brings forth the details of the scene with precision. Each element, from Washington's discernible features to the intricacies of the uniforms, is captured with care. This detail-oriented approach is not just a homage to Leutze's original painting but also gives depth to the historical moment.
The presence of the embossed seal of Goupil, the esteemed printseller, speaks to the engraving's authenticity. Its recognition, as noted by Mark Twain, and its larger size among Goupil's editions, makes it stand out.
While the original painting by Leutze was lost to the ravages of World War II, its essence is preserved both in Girardet's engraving and in the second rendition that Leutze painted, now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The original painting was part of the collection at the Kunsthalle in Bremen, Germany and was destroyed in a British air raid in 1942, during World War II. A second full size version of the painting was made by Leutze in 1850. The painting was originally bought by Marshall O. Roberts for $10,000. After changing ownership several times, it was finally donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by John Stewart Kennedy in 1897.