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John Quidor
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane
1858
oil
26 7/8 x 33 7/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible in part by the Catherine Walden Myer Endowment, the Julia D. Strong Endowment, and the Director's Discretionary Fund



Washington Irving's famous tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” inspired this startling scene. Ichabod Crane, wild-eyed in fear, throws up his hand to fend off an attack by the headless horseman. Although the head is just a greenish pumpkin catching a bit of moonlight, the scene becomes even more sinister as twisted tree branches seem to turn into writhing snakes. Irving's colorful characters and improbable yarns created a mythology for an American public that had few literary traditions.