Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Washington crossing the Delaware

While much of the world was celebrating Christmas in 1776, George Washington and a handful of his hearty men crossed the Delaware River under cover of darkness. Following his small boat across the icy river were thousands of his troops. The following morning, the assembled forces made a surprise attack on the German mercenaries, and their defeat provided a much needed boast to the  morale of the Americans.

Although the painting of the crossing is as American as you can get, it was actually painted by a German named Emanual Leutze, who released it in 1851 in order to inspire the spirit of rebellion then prevailing in Europe. It was initially released in Germany, and ultimately wound up in the Bremen art museum, which is was when it was destroyed by Allied bombing during WWII.

Fortunately, the artist had made two copies of the painting. Today, one copy is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.  The other painting was hung for a period of time in the West Wing of the White House, but ultimately made its way to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, Minnesota.

Like many artists, he took a few liberties in the painting, one of which was the flag. The Stars and Stripes did not come into being until September 3, 1777. The actual flag that Washington used was the Grand Union Flag, which looked like this:

 And now you know “the rest of the story”.

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