Rockwell Paints an Unexpected Christmas Discovery

In Rockwell’s classic Christmas scene, a boy makes an astonishing discovery of mistaken identities and big red coats.

A shocked little boy finding his parent's Santa Claus outfit in their dresser.

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For Christmas of 1956, Rockwell captured a moment of truth in a young boy’s life. While snooping in his parent’s bedroom, he comes across a familiar suit and puts two and two together. The result is an expression of shock and disillusionment that Rockwell made so vivid, you can feel it rising from the page.

But Rockwell wasn’t content to present just a comic scene. He filled the frame with details to build atmosphere and reward close attention.

Note how he captured the wood grain of the dresser — the nicks, dings, and stains that make a piece of furniture almost a member of the family. Then there’s the twine that secured the box with Dad’s suit and beard and the mothballs that have rolled across the carpet. Rockwell even went to the effort of including the open door through which junior snuck in, the stair rails beyond, even a glimpse of the house next door — details only a dedicated artist would include.

Rockwell’s model, Scott Ingram, became a minor celebrity for his expression of wide-eyed surprise. Being the figure on a Rockwell cover, he said, changed his life. He received fan mail, and was asked to autograph pictures and books. He even appeared on TV with Rockwell on the Hallmark Hall of Fame. He fondly remembered the milkshakes he received at the end of each session.

A shocked little boy finding his parent's Santa Claus outfit in their dresser.
The truth, at last: After years of painting Santa Claus, Rockwell offered this scene of startled discovery for his final Post Christmas cover.

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  1. Great article, insights and details into this Rockwell, Jeff. This boy is genuinely shocked! I have to wonder how many other kids were at the time as well.

    I can only imagine some parents hiding this issue from their children a few years, as well as older siblings that ‘know the truth’ teasing the younger ones who don’t, possibly leaving many children in tears:

    “Aw gee Dad, why are ya sore at me? I was just showing Kenny the cover of the Post, that’s all.” That’s ALL, Greg?! Just look at your brother! Kenny, come here. Santa Claus just brought Dad a beautiful (very expensive) new ’57 Chevy Nomad in Harbor Blue, but I have to pick it up from the dealer; it was too big for the chimney! How would you like to go with me to pick it up——and have the first ride—-all the way home, just us? Ya mean it Dad? Of course son. Get your jacket on, and we’ll go right away! Oh boy Dad! I feel happy now!”

    “But Dad, what about ME?” What about you, Greg? You promised I’D get the first ride! That was before you pulled this insensitive stunt—on Christmas Eve morning! You’ll get a ride in it—-eventually. Now be gone with you to your room to reflect on why you’re being punished. Apologize to your brother first.”

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