Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German, active United States, 1816–1868)
Oil on canvas
149 x 255 in. (378.5 x 647.7 cm)
Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34)
Leutze's depiction of a critical moment during the American revolution has become one of the best known and most extensively published images in American history. He portrays George Washington, accompanied by some 2,500 of his troops, crossing the Delaware River about nine miles above Trenton, New Jersey, in a surprise attack on the Hessians. The strategic crossing took place after midnight on December 25, 1776; ice floes and a heavy snowstorm kept the American soldiers and their allies from reaching shore until daybreak, which Leutze captured with the morning star overhead. Painted in Düsseldorf in 1851, the artist did extensive research to ensure historical accuracy, although experts are now quick to point out errors. The artist exhibited the picture in his studio in July 1851 before shipping it to New York City, where it was shown from October 29, 1851, through February 28, 1852. More than 50,000 people paid to see the grand painting with its large eagle-crested frame.