Newly discovered painting shows Washington's wartime tentNovember 15, 2017 4:58pm

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philip Mead was online late one night in May, looking for possible artifacts from the American Revolution, when a painting up for auction caught his eye and got his heart racing.

The chief historian at the American Revolution Museum had spied an unsigned watercolor from 1782. It was a panorama of an army encampment, and to his expert eye seemed to feature the only known wartime depiction of the tent George Washington used as his command center during the Revolutionary War.

The tent is the marquee exhibit at the museum, which opened in April. And, thanks to Mead's sharp eye, the museum now owns the painting that will anchor an exhibition next year.

Mead said the discovery seemed almost "too good to be true."

"I've had this level of excitement only a handful of times in my 30 years of looking for this stuff," Mead said.

When Mead saw the painting, he immediately emailed the image to Scott Stephenson, the museum's vice president of collections, exhibitions and programming.

"My heart leapt into my throat when I realized what this painting was," Stephenson said.

They had to quickly line up donors to bid on the piece, which was going up for auction just days after they spotted it. They were concerned maybe they weren't the only people to spot the rare work, and they weren't 100 percent sure the painting was exactly what they had hoped.

"Our motto is you must kiss every frog in case it is a prince," Stephenson said.

In this case, it was a prince.

With only one other bidder, they landed the painting easily, for $12,000. Once in hand, the museum's curatorial team was able to conclude the painting shows the Continental Army's fall encampment at Verplanck's Point, New York, and was created by Pierre L'Enfant, the French-born engineer best known for laying out the nation's capital.

Before he created the blueprint for Washington, D.C., L'Enfant served in the Continental Army. He was wounded at the Siege of Savannah, taken prisoner at the surrender of Charleston and upon his release went back to serve George Washington for the remainder of the war.

The painting depicts hundreds of military tents arrayed across a rolling Hudson Valley landscape. Perched on a hilltop rising about the scene on the painting's left side is Washington's field headquarters, including the telltale tent.

Most artwork from the war was afterward, so the images didn't necessarily depict actual events, the historians said.

"To have such a detailed depiction of the scene painted by an eyewitness — and engineer, nonetheless — from an age before photography is like having a Google Street View look at a Revolutionary War encampment," Mead said.

Although the painting isn't signed, it mirrors a L'Enfant panoramic painting from August 1782 of troops at West Point, New York, which was donated to the Library of Congress by the Maryland family who cared for L'Enfant at the end of his life. The style of brushwork, the timeframe of both paintings and handwriting comparisons helped to attribute the newly discovered watercolor to L'Enfant.

The original panoramic painting was at some point cut into six sheets of paper and mounted into a folder. A conservationist is working to clean the painting and remount the sheets adjacent to each other so the painting can be displayed as it was intended.

It will be the centerpiece of an exhibit called "Among His Troops: Washington's War Tent in a Newly Discovered Watercolor," on display from Jan. 13 to Feb. 19. The West Point painting will be on loan from the Library of Congress to round out the showing.

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

This Nov. 9, 2017, photo shows wall hangings from the Grateful Dead 1989 tour, along with a collection of Grateful Dead related memorabilia, at Stremmel Auctions in Reno, Nev.  The widow of the Grateful Dead's longtime lawyer is auctioning off treasures from their long strange trip with the psychedelic rock-and-roll band.  Hal and Jesse Kant’s memorabilia collection includes signed artwork by the band’s late leader, Jerry Garcia, and backstage passes from concerts spanning 30 years.  (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP)
Widow of Grateful Dead's longtime lawyer auctions rare items
Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks with the media during a news conference before Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., Friday, Nov. 17, 2017.(AP Photo/Terry Renna)
Dale Jr. reflects on Hurricane Irma's impact on Florida Keys
Turkeys thriving, causing ruckus in San Francisco suburbsTurkeys are traditional for Thanksgiving but some folks in the San Francisco Bay Area are praying they'll disappear
FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2013, file photo, writer and environmental activist Bill McKibben speaks to the Vermont legislature in Montpelier, Vt. McKibben has published his first novel, "Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of the Resistance," in November 2017. The tale focuses on a radio host broadcasting from a very secret location in Vermont, advocating that the state secede from the United States and form an independent republic. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)
Global warming sage pens novel of Vermont, 'resistance'
Country's oldest black college to remain accreditedNation's oldest historically black college will not lose accreditation, commission cites progress on finances, administration
FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2010 file photo, chief organizer of the 2010 World Cup Soccer tournament, Danny Jordaan, appears during an interview in Johannesburg. Jordaan is accused by former member of parliament Jennifer Ferguson of raping her in 1993. He denies the accusation. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell, File)
Weinstein's Impact: List of men accused of sexual misconduct
AdChoices

Related Searches

Related Searches

AdChoices