The State Museum of Pennsylvania Image of Penn's Treaty
An Image of Peace: The William Penn Treaty

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An Image
of Peace


Deeds of Peace

Kanshiaking...
The Elegant Land


Lenape...
The Common People


Brother Onas...
William Penn


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Creating an Image of Peace
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Fairman's Mansion and Treaty Tree

F. J. Wade (American)
Philadelphia in 1702 (detail)
1875, lithograph with watercolor 
20 1/8 x 26 (overall)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Meyer P. Potamkin
95.75.103

Benjamin West blended elements of the past with things he saw in his own time to create the painting William Penn's treaty with the Indians, when he founded the province of Pennsylvania in North America.

For a likeness of William Penn, West relied on a relief portrait of the founder created from memory by Silvanius Bevan. The portrait, made several years after Penn's death, shows an elderly man, not the robust thirty-eight year old founder at the time of his first visit to Pennsylvania. The Bevan portrait later became the basis for prints, paintings, and commemorative medals.

To lend realism to his Native American portraits, Benjamin West used a few original Indian objects. West owned at least two pairs of beaded moccasins, several arm bands and garter belts, a clay pipe, and a decorated bag. The materials for decoration included both glass beads and porcupine quills. While West's objects came from different Indian groups, mostly Iroquois, these items have Lenape origins.

Just as West had no Native Americans to serve as models, he also lacked portraits of original settlers to include in the painting. The elderly gentleman with white hair, third to left of Penn, is West's own father. Directly behind Penn is West's half brother Thomas West. These same family members appeared in a painting entitled The Artist's Family one year later. West chose to show Penn and the other Englishmen wearing the fashion of 1771, not 1682 when the event may have actually occurred.

The City & Port of Philadelphia,

William Russell Birch (1755-1834)
The City & Port of Philadelphia,
on the River Delaware from Kensington

c. 1800's
Engraving with watercolor
9 1/8 x 11 1/4 image
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Meyer P. Potamkin
95.75.22

West placed buildings in the background of Penn's Treaty which he likely remembered from his childhood in Pennsylvania. Few large brick homes existed in Philadelphia when William Penn met with Native Americans in the late 1600's. Many settlers who lacked resources had created crude cave-like homes along the banks of the Delaware River. 


Engraved prints of famous artworks spread their image throughout Europe and America. Other artists often copied elements or whole images from these illustrations. With prints of Penn's Treaty in wide circulation, artists and craftsmen for generations found inspiration in the romantic picture of William Penn and the Indians.

 

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