Painting, Liberty and Independence

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  • Unidentified
  • America, possibly Pennsylvania
  • 1849
  • Watercolor and ink on wove paper
  • Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
  • 1935.312.1

Patriotic themes and mottoes were an important source of design for calligraphers and calligraphy teachers during the early nineteenth century. This drawing is based on an engraving of the Pennsylvania coat of arms. The state's seal was first engraved in 1778 and subsequently was used in varying sizes and with slight changes in detail on legal documents, broadsides, and other public records.

A very similar drawing of the coat of arms, signed by C. Scherich and dated 1851, is in the M. & M. Karolik Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Another calligraphy drawing by Scherich, also in the Karolik Collection, is inscribed: "Drawn by C. Scherich under/The Tuition of J. Eichelberger/Jan 24th 1851." The hand responsible for acc. no. 1935.312.1 may also have attended Eichelberger's school.

Most of the flourishes within the horses' bodies --- and the fine line detailing of their manes and tails, and of the eagle above --- were expertly executed, but the artist encountered a space problem with the lettered motto, which in completed form reads: "VIRTUE LIBERTY AND INDEPENDENCE." Although the initial idea may have been to unfurl the lettered areas of the banner ends behind the horses' heads with no regard for the display of the full text, the artist added a tiny "V" before the "UE" on the left to identify the word "VIRTUE."

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