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The Portrait Of Patriotism Displayed In Mineola

Former county executive commissioned more accurate depiction of Washington crossing the Delaware River by local artist

The image of General George Washington crossing the Delaware River is an indelible moment etched into the psyche of American History. The regal, alluring 1851 Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze painting has been showcased clear across the globe, marveled by art lovers and passersby.

As the hours ticked away on Christmas in 1776, the frigid night before the Battle of Trenton, Washington and his men inched towards New Jersey, surprising Hessian forces with an American attack. The story would go on to immortalize the first president of the United States.

Although the 161-year-old piece that now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art amazes anyone who gets to see it, there’s just one thing…it’s a bit off, according to a certain Long Island painter.

Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi commissioned Cove Neck artist Mort Küntsler to correct the known errors of Leutze’s work, most notably the American flag, the size of the boat and the light source in the painting. The work was recently on display at Chaminade High School’s Athletic Center in Mineola where the two gave a talk to students, highlighting the path from the painting’s inception to its unveiling in December 2011.

The idea of Küntsler, a respected Civil War painter, to take on this daunting task originated during a trip to the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor. His reaction to Suozzi was a stern ‘no’ initially.

“This is an iconic image that everyone in the world knows,” Küntsler said of his first response. “How am I going to do anything with it? I didn’t know much about the situation at the time.”

With his work spanning about two months, Küntsler painted a dark sky, with snow falling as the ferry, not a rowboat, reached Trenton. While Leutze’s version depicts chunks of ice piercing the surface of the water, Küntsler’s features flat sheets of frozen areas of the Delaware River intruding on Washington’s mission, which according to Küntsler is how the river usually solidifies.

Küntsler called his painting, dubbed “Washington’s Crossing at McKonkey’s Ferry,” the most important painting he has completed in his life. In both paintings, the then-future president is standing at the front of the ferry, but in Küntsler’s piece, Washington is clinging to a canon.

Why? Because the flag he’s holding in Leutze’s version was not in use until 1777.

“Mr. Suozzi was so enthusiastic about it that he drove me down to McKonkey’s Ferry,” Kuntsler said. “Washington’s Crossing is the name of the town now. To get a large number of troops, horses and covered wagons across during that time, they had ferryboats.

“[Washington] ran a cable down stream and they used poles, not oars and at the same time, the [rip] current is taking them down stream and the boat has to be down stream of the cable, otherwise it’s going to get fouled up.”

Suozzi, a history buff, said it was a no-brainer to commission Küntsler to create the painting.

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art says this is the most visited painting they have,” Suozzi said of the Leutze’s version. “It’s a beautiful, inspirational painting…but it’s completely inaccurate. [Mort’s] painting will be the one they’re putting in textbooks one day.”

David Hackett Fischer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Washington’s Crossing, which Küntsler read while working on the project, called the piece a “major effort at accuracy from a study of the historical evidence.”

While saying one can’t compare to the other, Fischer, a history professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts since 1962, stated that Küntsler went farther in the direction of using primary resources in creating the painting than Leutze.

“The results are interesting and attracting to a historian’s eye. I think the Leutze painting is a cultural icon of great imminence and will always remain so. It operates on a different level that way so I don’t think it’s useful to try to compare their merits because they’re different sources of work with different purposes.”

News

The nine-story apartment building at 250 Old Country Road is rising on schedule, according to developers. Lake Success-based Lalezarian Developers is constructing a nine-story, 315-unit complex at the site.

 

Kevin Lalezarian estimated the project is about 20 percent complete.

 

“Our foundation is nearly complete,” Lalezarian said. “Our superstructure is proceeding. That’s the main thing happening right now.”

The Mineola Fire Department is looking to replace its Company Two engine, Truck 168. The truck is 25 years old, consisting of an articulating boom and bucket.

 

A new truck would cost upwards of $1 million, fire reps said.

 

“The current truck has served the village well for many years, but is in need of replacement,” Chief of Department Jeff Clark said.


Sports

The Mineola Hurricanes recently swept the Smithtown Bulls recently pounded the Smithtown Bulls in two games, winning 9-1and 6-1 at Brady Field in Smithtown. In game one, Chris Marotta brought the heat against the Bulls. 

 

Smithtown managed just one hit off of Marotta, who allowed no earned runs, walked two and struck out eight during his five innings of work. The Bulls jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Had college lacrosse burst onto the scene one generation earlier, one local resident would have become a household name within the inner circles.  Settling for three National Championships and a professional contract, however, is not a bad consolation prize.

 

Alex Rosier can now add one more accomplishment to the resume, nearly 20 years after his college career ended. 


Calendar

Town Zoning Meeting - August 13

International Night - August 14

What Matters To You - August 15


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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