The Met has made many artworks in their collections freely available online, so I’ll use their rather more detailed image than the one I took in 2015. I’m not exactly Sister Wendy, so there’s not much I can add about the imagery, but it is beautiful. That early US flag from the Washington-led Continental Army as they crossed the Delaware near Trenton, an important part of their winning the Revolutionary War.
I was only reminded of this artwork when I visited the quite marvellous Kunsthalle in Bremen, as they once had a similar and earlier painting by the same artist, Emanuel Leutze. Unfortunately, the artwork was so big that they couldn’t easily get it off the wall to protect it during the Second World War, so they had to risk it. A British military attack on the city destroyed some of the gallery building on 5 September 1942, which sadly included this painting.
The destroyed artwork was painted in 1849, the one in the Met’s collection is from 1850 and it went on display in New York in October 1851. It was purchased by Marshall Owen Roberts (1814-1880) for $10,000, a ridiculous sum of money for the time, but he could afford it with the money he had made from his transportation businesses.
The Met’s artwork remained in the collection of Robert’s estate, before it was sent for auction at Ortgies and Company, Fifth Avenue Art Galleries for sale on 20 January 1897. It was purchased by John S. Kennedy, who promptly gave it to the Met. And here it remains, one of their more inspirational paintings.