The Great Fire of New York
By HABERMANN, Franz Xaver, 1776
Representation du Feu Terrible a Nouvelle Yorck.
- Author: HABERMANN, Franz Xaver
- Publication place: Augsburg
- Publisher: au Negoce commun de l’Academie Imperiale d’Empire des Arts Liberaux
- Publication date: c1778
- Physical description: Double folio etched broadside, cut-outs of coloured silk pasted onto the verso, black ink painted onto the verso, text in German and French.
- Dimensions: 290 by 400mm. (11.5 by 15.75 inches).
- Inventory reference: 12779
“On September 19 and 20, 1776, four days after Washington had withdrawn the colonial troops from Manhattan Island, a furious fire swept New York, destroying nearly 500 buildings in the area between Broadway and the Hudson River. General Howe and his British troops had occupied the city following Washington’s withdrawal, and were preparing to use it as a winter base. John Jay, Nathanael Greene, and others had advised Washington to put the city to the torch rather than to leave it to the enemy; but the Continental Congress voted ‘no’ to the idea when Washington queried them by letter. To this day, the origin of the fire, which leveled one-fourth of the city, remains a mystery” (Nebenzahl).
Flames are shown spreading from doors, windows and roofs, with a dense smoke flying above them; figures on the street flee carrying their belongings; British troops are seen beating suspected arsonists. The title is engraved backwards as the print was intended to be shown on a wall or screen using a magic lantern, an optical device that projected the image by means of candles and mirrors.
Franz Xavier Habermann (1721–1796) was a German engraver of views and ornamental motifs.