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First Day of the Battle at Chapultepec, by the Top Currier Artist

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395.     [MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR]. CURRIER, N[athaniel]. [CAMERON, John (artist)]. Storming of the Fortress of Chapultepec. At the City of Mexico Septr. 12th. 1847 [in image at lower right] 1847 Cameron [below title] 548. [below image] Lith. & Pub. by N. Currier, | Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1847 by N. Currier, in the Clerk’s office of the District Court of the Southern District of N.Y. | 152 Nassau St. Cor. of Spruce N.Y. New York, 1847. Lithograph of battle scene, with original hand coloring, image: 21.7 x 32.5 cm; image, title and imprint: 23.9 x 32.5 cm; overall sheet size (irregular due to sections of blank missing): 34 x 45.4 cm. Fairly large sections of blank margins lacking and repaired. The print has been professionally restored, washed, and laid down on archival paper. The image, title, and imprint are fine, save for two very short tears into image at right (neatly restored). The flaws are not noticeable through the mat and frame. Framed and glazed.

     Gale, Currier & Ives: A Catalogue Raisonné 6277. For undated variant title, see: Conningham 5826, Peters, Currier & Ives, Vol. II, p. 369 (Checklist #938a). Not in Garrett & Goodwin, The Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 etc. Depicted here is the first day of battle at Chapultepec, a long day that began at dawn followed by fourteen hours of continuous bombardment. Shown are the opening volleys of the battle with the dashing advance of U.S. soldiers holding aloft two U.S. flags, Mexican forces in green jackets and straw sombreros defending themselves behind a stone embankment, the Mexican flag still held aloft on the magnificent castle positioned to defend Mexico City, the dead, the dying, the billows of smoke—the usual horrors of war. Violent as the present image is, worse would come. Three totally demoralizing events occurred for Mexico during and after their defeat at Chapultepec. During this battle six young Mexican cadets, known as Los Niños Héroes, refused to surrender, and one by one they fell until the last wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and jumped from the castle point to his death. The other infamy was the hanging of thirty of the San Patricios (Handbook of Texas Online: San Patricio Battalion), who had been captured at Churubusco. General Scott ordered that these deserters be hanged with Chapultepec in view and that the precise moment of their death was to occur when the U.S. flag replaced the Mexican tricolor atop the citadel. Last, the triumphal march of Scott into Mexico City that followed changed Mexico forever.

     The Scottish artist who drew this scene was John Cameron (1828-1876), chief lithographer for the Currier & Ives firm. Sandweiss, et al., Eyewitness to War, critiques another Mexican-American War print by Cameron (pp. 21-22). “[Cameron was] a skilled Scottish-born artist in Currier’s employ [who showed] …careful handling in draftsmanship and composition. Cameron’s sense of perspective is more accomplished, and the shading is more carefully rendered.” Although Cameron was a hunchback and “addicted to drink” (Peters, American on Stone, p. 130), his brilliance cannot be denied. Cameron’s horses, humor, and caricatures were the strength of Currier & Ives. (He sometimes worked outside the Currier & Ives venue, creating for instance, the wonderful views in Letts’ Pictorial View of California.)


Sold. Hammer: $750.00; Price Realized: $900.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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