Just two weeks after the Museum of the American Revolution opened in April 2017, museum curators made a surprising discovery.
A 235-year-old, seven-foot-long watercolor painting illustrating the Continental Army’s 1782 encampment at Verplanck’s Point in New York appeared at a public auction. The detailed work turned out to be the only known depiction of General George Washington’s headquarters tent in the field — the same tent now on permanent display in the immersive 12-minute feature Washington’s War Tent, part of the museum’s core exhibit.
- Among His Troops is open at the Museum of the American Revolution through Monday, February 19.
- It’s the first special exhibition at the new museum, which opened in April 2017.
- The centerpiece: a seven-foot-long watercolor that features the only known depiction of George Washington’s war tent in the field.
- The watercolor is one of a number of artifacts and artworks from the Revolutionary War in the 2,500-square-foot special exhibit.
- The exhibit is free with regular museum admission.
The museum’s curators jumped at the opportunity to exhibit this rare, eyewitness account of Washington’s camp during this pivotal moment in history. The delicate painting is the premier piece in the museum’s first special exhibit — entitled Among His Troops: Washington’s War Tent in a Newly Discovered Watercolor — alongside other works of art and artifacts from the Revolutionary War.
The Watercolor’s Discovery & Importance
Lovers of a good “whodunit” story will appreciate the curators’ sleuthing to uncover the watercolor — and discover who painted it.
After meticulous examination — the details of which are explained in the exhibit — it was clear that the unknown artist was Pierre L’Enfant, the master planner of Washington, D.C. L’Enfant’s only other known watercolor — which depicts West Point in 1782 and is on loan from the Library of Congress — is displayed next to his depiction of the Continental Army for an even deeper comparison.
When analyzed side by side, the paintings provide remarkable insight into what Washington’s camp looked like during the time period after the British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, at the tail end of the Revolutionary War.
At the time, Washington’s troops were run down, distressed and in crisis. In a display of solidarity with his soldiers, Washington set up his headquarters tent among theirs. It was a bold move in a tumultuous time — and one that brought forth a feeling of unity and helped dispel negativity.
Artifacts & More
Other works of art and artifacts from the Revolutionary War — including pins, ropes and fragile fragments of Washington’s headquarters tent — are displayed alongside the two panoramic paintings to help tell the story of this crucial moment in history.
One rare artifact of note brings some bling to the museum. The Diamond Eagle of the Society of the Cincinnati, a diamond-encrusted pendant that was owned and worn by George Washington as the first president general of the Society, is on display through Sunday, March 4 just outside the tent theater. This is the first time the pin has been exhibited in Philadelphia, the city where it was was presented to Washington 233 years ago.
The Society’s insignia, featuring a gold eagle suspended from a blue and white ribbon, was designed by — who else? — Pierre L’Enfant, the same artist who painted the exhibit’s featured watercolors.
Tickets & More
Admission to Among His Troops is free with with regular museum admission: $19 for adults; $12 for youth (6-17); $17 for seniors (65 and up); $17 for students, military, and teachers; free for children 5 and under and members.
Thirty-minute educator-led early access tours of the special exhibit will take place Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. for $35 general admission, $20 members.
Twenty-minute gallery talks by members of the curatorial team will take place Monday through Wednesday at 1 p.m. with general admission.
For more details about additional special programming around the exhibit, see the museum’s events calendar.
Don’t miss this chance to observe an exceptional contextualization of one of the museum’s most meaningful Revolutionary artifacts.