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Junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers

Roberts, William
Place Made:
Harper’s Ferry West Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
watercolor on paper
HOA: 12″; WOA: 15 1/2″
Accession Number:
In 1803 and 1804 William Roberts traveled to Harpers Ferry, Virginia, to see the Junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, considered one of the most picturesque sites in the United States. Following his return to England, Roberts produced a study of the scene before executing this more finished watercolor. It was this more finished view that was engraved and printed.

SCENE: The arsenal, which was captured by John Brown and his abolitionist followers during his raid on Harper’s Ferry, is visible in the foreground. This arsenal was a popular subject among nineteenth-century landscape painters working in western Virginia and Maryland.

RELATED WORKS: Watercolor sketch before this watercolor (MESDA Acc. No. 3424.1); aquatint etched after this watercolor (MESDA Acc. No. 3424.3).

DESCRIPTION: Watercolor on paper, “Junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah, Virginia,” landscape scene of rivers meeting with hills on both sides, one river being further away in the distance. Clouds sit in the blue sky. Long, rectangular buildings (one of which is the arsenal) sit below the hills and in front of the river, and houses are visible to the left. A ferry boat is sailing in the middle of the river to the left, and another ferry boat sails below the rectangular buildings from the right. Each carries human and animal figures. Other human figures are on both sides of the river banks. Smaller boats appear in this painting in the background. There are also two canons present in front of the arsenal building.

Descended in the family of the artist, William Roberts, to his daughter Grace (Roberts) Burton, to her son Sir Charles Burton.
Credit Line:
Gift of G. Wilson Douglas, Jr. and Douglas Battery Fund