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Rare French Painting Joins Fort Ticonderoga Museum Collections

Fort Ticonderoga's recent acquisition of an important painting of the French military on campaign from the mid-18th centuryFort Ticonderoga is thrilled to announce the recent acquisition of an important painting of the French military on campaign from the mid-18th century. The work depicts a French regiment camped in hilly terrain of the Italian Piedmont during the final campaigns of the 1740-1748 War of Austrian Succession. This painting is an internationally significant addition to the museum’s collection and an important document of military and material culture during the Ancient Regime with a direct connection to the French soldiers that built and served at Fort Carillon (later named Ticonderoga) during the French and Indian War (1754-1763).

The campaign depicted in the painting involved French forces advancing into Northern Italy. These French troops suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of numerically inferior Piedmontese troops at the Battle of l’Assietta. The Marquis de Montcalm also served during the campaign depicted in the painting, where he was wounded during the battle, his final field command prior to his service in Canada. The painting represents the camp of the Royal Roussillon Regiment, identifiable by their uniforms which follow the January 19, 1747 regulations. This regiment later served and wore the same uniforms at Fort Carillon from 1756-1758, including the climactic battle on July 8, 1758, making this one of the very few surviving contemporary images of French regiments that saw service in North America.

This painting serves not only as a detailed glimpse into a French military encampment, but represents a campaign that may have served as a lesson for the Marquis de Montcalm of how a small, well-entrenched force could defeat a much larger army. The lopsided victory at l’Assietta in 1747 shares some striking similarities with the later battle at Ticonderoga in 1758, including the presence of Montcalm as well as four of the infantry regiments that had fought in Italy, one depicted in this painting.

“The intricate detail of the painting is a remarkable window into daily life in the French military,” said Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator Matthew Keagle. “It illustrates in full color many of the details of camp life depicted in the engravings of military manuals in the Fort Ticonderoga Museum’s library collection. The level of detail allows the identification of numerous examples of objects from soldiers’ muskets to powder horns to eating utensils that match examples recovered archaeologically at Fort Ticonderoga.”

Fort Ticonderoga holds one of North America’s premier collections of 18th-century military material culture. This painting adds immensely to the museum’s holding of French material. Exhibits across the museum’s campus contain thousands of objects and tell thousands of stories, narrating the history of Fort Ticonderoga from the military culture of the 18th century to the reconstruction of the fort in the 20th century. The painting will be on display during the museum’s 2016 season in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center.