Okay. This is a very difficult work to show and talk about on the internet (yet another argument for seeing art in person!), but bear with me.
Allan McLane (August 8, 1746 – May 22, 1829) was an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. The story of the ambush was covered in a much earlier post on this blog, and I won’t be going into much detail about that here. Rather, in the spirit of fast-approaching Halloween, I want to focus on a spooky element happening in the background.
A pentimento is visible evidence that the artist altered a work in some way. One of the most famous examples of this includes The Old Guitarist by Picasso, where a woman’s face is visible just over the man’s shoulder (see it HERE).
Well, look again at “The Ambush of Captain Allen McLane.” Do you notice anything?
If you look very carefully you can see evidence of a pentimento: a horse that used to be there that isn’t anymore.
It looks almost… ghostlike… don’t you think?