Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Declaration of Independence, July 4 1776 by John Trumbull

The Declaration of Independence, July 4 1776 by John Trumbull

The Declaration of Independence was begun in Paris, most probably at the suggestion of Thomas Jefferson, chief author of the document, provided Trumbull with a first-hand account of the event in the Assembly Room in Independence Hall where Congress had met. Trumbull combined a desire for historical authenticity with a mission to commemorate a moment of transcendent importance. Jefferson stands at the center surrounded by John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Benjamin Franklin and presents the document to John Hancock, president of Congress. Trumbull chose to have the whole committee present the document rather than a single spokesman, which would have been historically accurate. At the suggestion of Adams and Jefferson, Trumbull portrayed all congressmen including those not present on July 4, as well as those who opposed the Declaration and did not sign. He also took liberties with the interior, ornamenting the scene with military flags and trophies. He covered the windows with red velvet draperies instead of the venetian blinds that were actually in place. Instead of the simple wooden Windsor chairs that furnished the room, he seated the congressmen in elegant mahogany armchairs, and Hancock in an upholstered and gilded version. These stylish additions may have been intended to elevate the character of a provincial assembly by conveying a more sophisticated image of America. 

Painting from Wikimedia. Copy from Yale  University Art Gallery, eCatalgue.

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