Friday, 24 July 2015

Illustrating Executions: Artistic License and Sloppiness

The illustrations below are of two executions that took place almost a year apart, in 1780 and 1781. The first is said to be that of British Major John Andre, hanged by the Patriots as a spy. The second claims to be the execution of Col, Isaac Hayne of South Carolina, hanged by the British in Charleston for treason (he had taken the loyalty oath to the Crown after Charleston's surrender in 1780 and later rejoined the Patriots). The illustrations are virtually identical, except for a few minor changes of uniform colors. Even the flags remained the same. It is likely that neither artist was present at either execution, but the artist of Hayne's hanging surely copied the artist of Andre's and did it hurriedly!

Oddly, the Patriot officer presiding over Andre's hanging is in a redcoat. Another version of the same work, however, shows the officer in blue. (See third illustration, below)

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