"The Storming of Chapultepec"

Description
This print depicts American forces attacking the fortress palace of Chapultepec on Sept. 13th, 1847. General Winfield Scott, on a white horse (lower left), led the southern division of the U.S. Army that successfully captured Mexico City during the Mexican American War. The outcome of American victory was the loss of Mexico's northern territories, from California to New Mexico, by the terms set in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. It should be noted that the two countries ratified different versions of the same peace treaty, with the United States ultimately eliminating provisions for honoring the land titles of its newly absorbed Mexican citizens. Despite notable opposition to the war from Americans like Abraham Lincoln, John Quincy Adams, and Henry David Thoreau, the Mexican-American War proved hugely popular. The United States' victory boosted American patriotism and the country's belief in Manifest Destiny.
This large chromolithograph was first distributed in 1848 by Nathaniel Currier of Currier and Ives, who served as the "sole agent." The lithographers, Sarony & Major of New York (1846-1857) copied it from a painting by "Walker." While the current location of that painting is unknown, when the print was created, the painting was owned by Captain B. S. Roberts of the Mounted Rifles, as indicated by an inscription below the image.
The original artist has previously been incorrectly attributed to William Aiken Walker as well as Henry A. Walke, as both worked at various times with Currier. The artist of the original painting however is James Walker (1819-1889), who created the "Battle of Chapultepec" 1857-1862 for the U.S. Capitol. This image differs from the painting commissioned for the U. S. Capitol by depicting the troops in regimented battle lines with General Scott in a more prominent position in the foreground. Variant copies of the image from different viewpoints were painted by Walker. James Walker was living in Mexico City at the outbreak of the Mexican War and joined the American forces as an interpreter. Attached to General Worth's staff, he was present at the battles of Contreras, Churubusco, and at Chapultepec was tasked as the artist. Captain Benjamin Stone Roberts, an engineer, was assigned by General Winfield Scott to assist Walker with recreating the details of the battle of Chapultepec. Roberts is depicted in the painting as leading the storming. When the painting was complete, Roberts purchased a copy of the painting for $250.00 (documented in letters and a diary). Captain George T. M. Davis, aide-de-camp to Generals Quitman and Shields also purchased a copy of the painting by Walker, in Mexico City, which was publicized in newspapers and made into a print. By 1848, James Walker had returned to a New York City studio in the same neighborhood as the print's distributor Nathaniel Currier and lithographers Napoleon Sarony and Henry B. Major.
This popular lithograph was one of several published to visually document the war while engaging the imagination of the public. Created prior to photography, these prints were meant to inform the public, while generally eliminating the portrayal of more gory details. Historians have been able to use at least some prints of the Mexican War for study and corroborate with the traditional literary forms of documentation. As an eyewitness, both Walke and Walker could claim accuracy of detail within the narrative. The battle is presented in the grand, historic, heroic style with the brutality of war not portrayed. The print depiction is quite large for a chromo of the period. In creating the chromolithographic interpretation of the painting, Sarony & Major used at least four large stones to produce the print "in colours," making the most of their use of color. They also defined each figure with precision by outlining each in black. This print was considered by expert/collector Harry T. Peters as one of the finest ever produced by Sarony & Major.
Description (Spanish)
Este grabado ilustra a las fuerzas americanas atacando la fortaleza del palacio de Chapultepec el 13 de septiembre de 1847. El General Winfield Scott, representado en la esquina inferior izquierda montando un caballo blanco, condujo la división sureña del ejército estadounidense que tomó con éxito la ciudad de México durante la guerra mexicoamericana. El resultado de la victoria americana se tradujo en la pérdida para México de los territorios al norte del país, desde California hasta Nuevo México. Estos términos quedaron establecidos en el tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo. Debe observarse que las dos naciones ratificaron diferentes versiones del mismo tratado de paz, con los Estados Unidos eliminando en última instancia cláusulas que reconocían títulos territoriales a los ciudadanos mexicanos recientemente asimilados. A pesar de la notable oposición de los americanos a la guerra, como Abraham Lincoln, John Quincy Adams y Henry David Thoreau, la Guerra Mexicoamericana evidenció ser considerablemente popular. La victoria de los Estados Unidos reforzó el patriotismo americano y la fe del país en el Destino Manifiesto.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1848
associated date
1847-09-13
distributor
Currier, Nathaniel
depicted
Scott, Winfield
lithographer
Sarony & Major
artist
Walker, James
Place Made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
ink (overall material)
paper (overall material)
Measurements
image: 23 1/2 in x 36 in; 59.69 cm x 91.44 cm
ID Number
DL.60.2602
catalog number
60.2602
accession number
228146
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
subject
Horses
Patriotism and Patriotic Symbols
Chronology: 1840-1849
Uniforms, Military
Mexican War
Flags
related event
Battle of Chapultepec, 1847
Mexican War
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Data Source
National Museum of American History