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October 26, 2007

Veni, Vidi, Vici
The Halls of Montezuma

179. [MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR]. NEBEL, C[arlos]. Genl. Scott’s Entrance into Mexico [lower left below image] C. Nebel fecit [lower right below image] Bayot lith. [lower left in image] Entered according to Act of Congress. [Paris: Lemercier, 1851]. Toned lithograph, original hand coloring, hand-finished with gum arabic highlights. Image: 28.3 x 43 cm; image with title: 31.5 x 43 cm; overall sheet size: 36 x 47.5 cm. In hinged mat with modern mounting tape. Scattered light foxing (heavier in blank margins), small, thin streak down right-hand side, small ink spot and wrinkle at upper right in sky, otherwise good with excellent color retention and gesso highlights undisturbed. The prints from this series are exceedingly difficult to acquire in acceptable condition because of heavy dark foxing due the mixed-media technique used to create the prints. Unfortunately, in the zeal to remove discoloration from the prints, they are frequently found over-restored, with bleached color and the subtle gesso highlights removed.

            First edition of one of the major Mexican-American War prints. This lithograph appeared in George Wilkins Kendall and Carlos Nebel’s The War Between the United States and Mexico Illustrated (New York & Philadelphia: Appleton, 1851). See preceding entry for more details on the creation of this series of prints. Bennett, American Nineteenth-Century Color Plate Books, p. 65: “The very best American battle scenes in existence.” Christensen, The U.S.-Mexican War, p. 181. Garrett & Goodwin, Mexican-American War, p. 31. Haferkorn, p. 47. Howes K76. Kurutz & Mathes, The Forgotten War, p. 148. Palau 188868. Peters, America on Stone, p. 295. Raines, p. 132. Sabin 37362. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerroeotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, No. 159 (p. 345), Plate 24 (p. 98). Tyler, The Mexican War, A Lithographic Record, p. 11: “Magnificently produced portfolio by the first modern war correspondent;” p. 18: “Of all the Mexican War lithographs, perhaps the dozen by Kendall and Nebel are the most popular, as well as the most accurate.” Tyler, Prints of the West, p. 78.

Sandweiss et al. state:

Nebel’s version of Scott’s entrance sticks closer to the truth and is packed with psychological drama. There is no doubt here that the war is still on. Loaded cannons are posted to sweep the streets, while a body of dragoons in the foreground gathers tensely with drawn sabers near General Scott and his staff. In a particularly effective narrative detail, one of the dragoon officers, on a white horse in the center foreground, glares at a lepero on the left who is preparing to throw a stone. From the street or from doorways and partially closed windows, other citizens watch with fear, curiosity, apprehension, indignation, and in the case of the lepero with the stone and the armed men on the roof, open hostility, an allusion to the violence that broke out shortly thereafter.

This view, as grandiose as it appears, belies the actual taking of Mexico City’s heart, which was accomplished in fact by a fairly rag-tag group of U.S. soldiers who managed to seize the main government building shown in the background and raise the U.S. flag over it, as is depicted here. Scott and his entourage did not in reality arrive on the scene until they were sent for by Quitman. Thus, the arrival of U.S. troops was probably somewhat less filled with pageantry than the scene depicted here, although this image or some version of it was the one transmitted to the U.S. populace. Ironically, the area shown here is precisely the same upon which the Spanish conquistadors erected their civilization over the conquered Aztecs, whose main temple lies buried beneath the imposing cathedral. ($750-1,500)

Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,175.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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