WEST, Benjamin (1738-1820) – HALL, John (1739-1797). William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians when he founded the Province of Pennsylvania in North America, 1681. London: John Boydell, [c. 1775].

$ 2,800.00

Single sheet, mounted and framed, (19 x 24 inches). Fine engraved scene (margins a bit browned).

First edition. “One of the best-known prints of a Philadelphia scene” (Snyder, p. 252). “Benjamin West’s interest and knowledge of Penn’s Treaty would have come from a background that included his birth in Pennsylvania, the religious background of his Quaker parents and the fact that his mother’s father was a friend of William Penn. West also had the opportunity as a youth to gain some knowledge of Native Americans – it is alleged that when a party of Indians came to Springfield and saw West’s sketches of birds and flowers, the Indians supposedly taught him how to prepare the red and yellow colors that they used to paint their ornaments.

“West’s painting of Penn’s Treaty was commissioned in 1770 or 1771 by William Penn’s son, Thomas Penn, and completed sometime in 1771-72. Little did West know that his painting of Penn’s Treaty would begin a centuries-long fascination with the subject. Some say that Thomas Penn commissioned the painting as a way to try to ‘restore favor’ with Pennsylvanians by using his father’s ‘popular image as a man of peace’ to support Thomas Penn’s interest in Pennsylvania. His reputation had been previously tarnished by the supposed ‘greed and treachery’ he showed in dealing with the American Indians…

“In order to stem the alleged criticism of his fellow citizens, Thomas Penn needed to do more than commission a painting, so he commissioned English publisher John Boydell (1719-1804), who was well known for his reproductions of engravings to come up with an engraving of the Penn Treaty painting. In 1773, Boydell began to advertise his plan to issue a print of Penn’s Treaty, copied from the West painting. During the next few years, John Hall, working for Boydell, engraved the plate for the print. The print was published in London in 1775 with the title ‘William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians when he founded the Province of Pennsylvania in North America, 1681.’

“In Hall’s engraving, the image was reversed from West’s painting. The original copper plate was continuously used to reproduce the print as late as 1932. By publishing this engraving of Penn’s Treaty, the image reached a wider audience. The engraving was sent to America, where it sold well and proved a success. Many other artists copied it thereafter. Through West’s painting of Penn’s Treaty and Boydell’s print of West’s painting, the Treaty Tree itself also became a popular subject for artists not only in North America but in Continental Europe as well” (Milano, pp. 24-26). Kenneth W. Milano, “The History of Penn Treaty Park.” Martin P. Snyder, “City of Independence: Views of Philadelphia Before 1800.”

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