Rare ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’ Painting Hanging in the White House Will Be Auctioned

A rare ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’ painting that hung in the White House for over 40 years will be auctioned off and is expected to sell for $20 million

  • The 1851 oil painting is one of three versions painted by Emanuel Leutze of the man who was to be America’s first president to lead troops
  • The first version was destroyed in a World War II air raid in Germany, said Paige Kestenman, American art specialist at Christie’s New York.
  • The artwork depicts George Washington leading soldiers across the Delaware River to surprise the infantry hiding on the other side on Christmas night 1776.
  • A re-enactment of this famous moment takes place every year and draws crowds to the banks of the Washington River in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The famous ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’ painting, which hung in the White House from the 1970s to 2014, will go up for auction next month when it is estimated to fetch around $20 million.

The 1851 oil painting is one of three versions painted by Emanuel Leutze of the man who was to be America’s first president to lead the troops at a key moment in the American Revolution. Only two survive.

The first version was destroyed in a World War II air raid in Germany, said Paige Kestenman, American art specialist at Christie’s New York.

“The second is the monumental work that is the centerpiece of the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the third is this work here,” Kestenman said.

The New York Met’s version measures 12.4 feet by 21.25 feet.

The famous “Washington Crossing the Delaware” painting, which hung in the White House from the 1970s to 2014, will go up for auction next month when it is estimated to fetch around $20 million.

The 1851 oil painting is one of three versions painted by Emanuel Leutze of the man who was to be America's first president to lead the troops at a key moment in the American Revolution.  Only two survive

The 1851 oil painting is one of three versions painted by Emanuel Leutze of the man who was to be America’s first president to lead the troops at a key moment in the American Revolution. Only two survive

The first version was destroyed in a World War II air raid in Germany, said Paige Kestenman, American art specialist at Christie's New York.

The first version was destroyed in a World War II air raid in Germany, said Paige Kestenman, American art specialist at Christie’s New York.

The painting going on sale May 12 is smaller – about 3 feet by 6 feet. It had hung for decades in the White House, mostly in the West Wing reception room.

The artwork depicts George Washington leading soldiers across the Delaware River to surprise infantry hiding on the other side on Christmas night 1776, Kestenman said.

“A German-American immigrant, Leutze was also a staunch abolitionist, and in ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware,’ he deliberately included a variety of characters that make up the crucible that formed the American nation,” Kestenman said.

She pointed to a black soldier, another soldier wearing a tartan cap, moccasins and buckskin clothing suggestive of the American West and Native Americans.

A re-enactment of this famous moment takes place every year and draws crowds to the banks of the Washington River in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In 2021, the reenactment celebrated its 241st anniversary.

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About Catharine C. Bean

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