A Tale of Two Paintings

October 4th, 2018 History

If you’ve ever visited Washington Crossing Historic Park, you probably noticed that Emanuel Leutze’s iconic painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, is displayed in the Visitor Center Auditorium.

But did you know that’s not the original painting?

The very first version of the painting was seriously damaged in a fire in 1850 and ultimately destroyed in 1942 during a World War II bombing raid. Thankfully, Leutze painted a second version that was brought to the United States and eventually donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1897.

In 1952, the Met loaned the painting to the Washington Crossing Park Commission, which exhibited it at the United Methodist Church on Embarkation Drive. The painting was then moved to the auditorium at the newly completed Visitor Center in 1959, where it stayed for more than a decade.

The painting was returned to the Met in 1970 and replaced with a full-scale reproduction, created by Robert B. Williams, that hung in the Visitor Center until 1998. The version that visitors see today was put in place when the Visitor Center was renovated a few years ago.

In the picture, you can see conservators preparing to remove the Leutze painting to be transported back to the Met (left), while the Williams reproduction is prepared for installation (right).