The recent discovery of a 235-year-old painting offers a never-before-seen glimpse into the Revolutionary War.
The watercolor panorama of a Continental Army encampment features the only known wartime depiction of George Washington's headquarters tent, his command center throughout the war. The tent is also the marquee exhibit at the Museum of the American Revolution, which opened in April in the Old City section of Philadelphia.
Historians at the museum have determined the unsigned painting was created by Pierre L'Enfant, the French-born engineer who designed the nation's capital.
It depicts the Continental Army's fall encampment at Verplanck's Point, New York. It will be highlighted with another L'Enfant wartime painting in a special exhibit running from Jan. 13 to Feb. 19.
The museum's chief historian, Dr. Philip Mead, says to have such a detailed depiction from an age before photography "is like having a Google Street View look at a Revolutionary War encampment."
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"My heart leapt into my throat when I realized what this painting was," said Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, the museum’s vice president of collections, exhibitions and programming. "For it to appear just months after unveiling Washington’s original tent is an astonishing coincidence. This painting illustrates a key point about Washington’s leadership: Washington remained in the field with his army through eight years of conflict. His decision to live under canvas was a physical demonstration of his devotion to them and their shared cause."