Emanuel Leutze’s Portrait of General Ambrose Burnside at Antietam

In 1863, the German history painter, Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868), celebrated for his 1850 painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, completed a large portrait of General Ambrose Burnside at the Battle of Antietam. This was one of a series of Union commanders that the artist planned to paint but it appears that only this painting and one depicting General Grant in his tent were actually completed.

The painting depicts the general standing in uniform just before the capture of the Stone Bridge during the Battle of Antietam, Maryland, September 17, 1862. His left hand rests on the hilt of a sword presented to him by the people of the state. Completed early the following year from life and exhibited with some fanfare at the annual exhibition of the Boston Athenaeum in May, the huge canvas measuring 11 feet by 8 feet, was presented to Brown University on August 26th, 1863 through John R. Bartlett acting on behalf of various friends of the university who subscribed a total of $1,675 for its purchase. These included such distinguished luminaries as John Carter Brown, Robert and Thomas Ives, Governor William Sprague and his brother Amasa, former Governor Elisha Dyer, future Governor Henry Lippitt, and Republican Senator, Thomas A. Jenckes. Each gave between $50 and $100.

Unfortunately the large dimensions of the framed canvas meant that it was too large for many of the buildings on the campus. Some places were considered such as Rogers Hall, Manning Hall, the John Hay Library, Faunce House and the John Carter Brown Library, and eventually it was hung in the balcony of Sayles Hall as can be seen in the photograph taken prior to the installation of the organ in 1903. Thereafter it was moved to the Engineering Building but in 1938, it was decided to present it to the Rhode Island Statehouse on permanent loan. Today, it hangs at the end of a side corridor on the first floor outside the Office of the Senate President (Room 117). A study for the painting is in the Redwood Library, Newport.

Today, it hangs at the end of a side corridor on the first floor outside the Office of the Senate President (Room 117). A study for the painting is in the Redwood Library, Newport.

References:
Reuben Aldridge Guild. History of Brown University, with Illustrative Documents. Providence, 1867, pp. 291-292.
Barbara S. Groseclose. Emanuel Leutze, 1816-1868. Washington, D.C., National Collection of Fine Arts, 1975, page 234.