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Two Views of the Conquest of Mexico City

<p><em>Castillo de Chapultepec</em></p>


[MEXICO CITY, BATTLE OF]. Two prints, both depicting scenes from the battle for Mexico City. The prints are from a rare lithograph album on Mexico: Album pintoresco de la República Mexicana. Mexico City: Estampería de Julio Michaud y Thomas, [1850]. Amon Carter, Eyewitness to War, p. 127, comments: “The largest single source of printed images based on the Mexican view of the war is contained in Album Pintoresco de la República Méxicana.... Of these forty-five lithographed plates...six depict battle scenes from the war.”

[1] LEHNERT, Pierre-Frédéric (artist). Churubusco 1847. Signed in plate at lower right: F. Lehnert. Below neat line: Julio Michaud y Thomas Editores, Junto al Correo Mejico Imp. Lemercier, à Paris. Lithograph on beige toned ground: image area: 24 x 36.3 cm; overall sheet size: 32.6 x 45.5 cm. Washed, slightly soiled, marginal chips and losses consolidated by new backing, two large closed tears in image.

First edition.

The image depicts the beginning of the U.S. assault on Churubusco, August 20, 1847. The scene is believed to be derived from an earlier one published in Mexico City shortly after the battle by José Severo Rocha. Rocha’s view is considerably cruder than the view here and shows the U.S. attack farther advanced. On the other hand, Lehnert appears to have taken several liberties with his facts. In the middle foreground to the left, U.S. troops are shown repelling an attack by mounted Mexicans seeking to lasso them, an event that probably never occurred. Also, the frontal attack shown here by mounted dragoons probably never happened, since it would have been impracticable. Although indistinguishable in the print, the San Patricio brigade composed primarily of Irish-Catholic U.S. deserters, anchors the Mexican left behind the low wall. Their fear of their fate if captured prolonged the Mexican resistance because they several times interfered with Mexican attempts to surrender. Despite the inaccuracies, this is the liveliest view of the initial U.S. assault.

[2] LEHNERT, Pierre-Frédéric (artist). Castillo de Chapultepec 1847. Signed in plate at lower left-center: F. Lehnert. Below neat line: Julio Michaud y Thomas Editores, Junto al Correo Mejico Imp. Lemercier, à Paris. Lithograph on grey toned ground: image area: 24 x 36.4 cm; overall sheet size: 32.5 x 45.5 cm. Washed and backed, several closed tears to the image (mostly marginal, but some into image area), edges strengthened, slightly soiled.

First edition.

The print is discussed in Sandweiss, p. 334, where it is suggested that Sarony & Major was the source for this image. Although showing a large perspective of the battlefield, this view concentrates on General John A. Quitman’s attempts to carry the southeast corner of the defenses on September 13, 1847. The scene depicts the moment at which Quitman’s troops breach the wall. In many ways this print is amazingly detailed, showing one U.S. soldier surmounting the gun emplacement and in the act of clubbing the defenders with his weapon. In the right foreground one of his comrades calmly reloads while his fellows fire and surge forward. The foreground is littered with dead horses and soldiers. The battle was notable for the deaths of Los Niños Héroes.

Dicc. Porrúa comments that Lehnert’s work is superior to some of the other plates in the Album, noting that his work is more formal and studied.


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