‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’ Will Be Sold at Auction

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The other two canvases were sent to the United States after Leutze finished them in 1851. The larger canvas went to the Stuyvesant Institute in New York, where it was displayed in October 1851 under bright lights, Ms. Kestenman said.

“It became a real event,” she said. “It was like going to the theater going to see this painting.” Over the next four months, about 50,000 people paid 25 cents a ticket to see it.

The smaller painting was always privately owned, and was created so that it could be more easily reproduced by an engraver, who could then mass produce prints of the piece. In 1973 it sold for $260,000, which at the time was the most anyone had ever paid for an American painting.

Six years later, it sold for $370,000, Ms. Kestenman said. It was put on loan to the White House, where it was displayed during various administrations, according to Christie’s.

In 2015, the painting briefly hung in the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, in Winona.

Ms. Kestenman said the painting is being sold by a private seller, who does not want to be identified or discuss the auctioning of the canvas.

“I think it’s going to sell extremely well,” said John Tilford, curator of collections for the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art in Atlanta. “It really boils down to how many very wealthy people want this painting.”

It takes only two bidders competing for the piece to drive the price up, Mr. Tilford said.

The painting’s value lies not only its recognizability — it’s so familiar that it has been parodied by shows like “Veep,” “The Muppets,” and “Queer Eye” — but also in Leutze’s role in its creation, Mr. Tilford said.

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