Destruction de la Statue Royale a Nouvelle Yorck. [printed in mirror image.]
Augsburg: Grave par Francois Xav. Habermann, Ca. late 18th century. Hand color, likely original. Full margins. Sheet size: about 15 ¾ x 19 ¼ .” Printed area: 11 ¼ x 15 ½. Minimal staining/soiling with edge wear and wrinkling, consistent with the image’s past use and primarily confined to the outer margins and easily matted out. Item #3713
Statue-toppling is a time-honored political tradition, dating back at least as far as 16th century Italy. This engraving of the pulling down of a statue of King George III in New York City in 1776 is a marvelous example of a vue d’optique or “perspective view” that was a form of visual entertainment in Europe in the latter half of the 18th century. These views were often fanciful; this one does, however, represent a real historical event in the early part of the American Revolution.
On July 10, 1776, a public reading of the new Declaration of Independence in New York City aroused the Sons of Liberty to such an extent that they tore down the statue of King George III which had been erected in 1770 on the Bowling Green at the foot of Broadway. In an ironic turn, portions of the lead statue were later taken to Connecticut for melting down into bullets to be used against the King’s forces.
In the view, the artist has given the New York architecture a distinctly European flavor. And as noted in the Boston Athenaeum’s description of the engraving: “This pictorial rendering takes considerable liberties with historical facts and shows the statue being pulled down with ropes by dark-skinned men in turbans.”
All in all, a dramatic and at least marginally accurate portrayal of an important statue toppling at the beginning of the American Revolution. (For a top-10 list of historical monument takedowns, see http://origins.osu.edu/connecting-history/top-ten-origins-monument-takedowns.)
Reference: cf, Cresswell: The American Revolution in Drawings and Prints: 263. [ICN 7650.].