William Penn’s treaty with the Indians, when he founded the Province of Pensylvania in North America 1681


William Penn’s treaty with the Indians, when he founded the Province of Pensylvania in North America 1681. Engraving after the painting by Benjamin West, engraving by John Hall, published in 1775 by John Boydell. Image is 59 x 42,5 cm large mounted on acid free paper. Dimensions sheet 61,5 x 48. Condition, a tear in upper right corner, some paper loss in the middle of the title.
Benjamin West’s print depicts William Penn entering into peace treaty with Tamanend, a chief of the Lenape Turtle Clan. The historical moment occurred in 1683, near the village of Shackamaxon, Pennsylvania, and signalled over a century of peace between the Delaware Indians and Penn’s successors. The figure of Penn stands centre left with his arms open; his entourage beside him. Two further men kneel, and offer gifts to the clan. The Indians are shown with feather headdresses, partly shaved heads, beaded armbands and headbands, and large earrings. They lean forward, eager to see what is being offered to them. A large elm tree shades the group, and the incomplete buildings of Shackamaxon can be seen in the background. Benjamin West’s oil painting was completed in 1772, three years before Boydell commissioned John Hall to reverse the image in a copper plate engraving. The print was copied in a smaller size by Robert Delaunay and published as ‘Guillaume Penn Traite avec les Indiens’, but it is Hall’s work which is the most collectable.

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Benjamin West (1738 – 1820) was an Anglo-American artist who specialised in the historical manner. West was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, the tenth child of an innkeeper. He was something of an autodidact, and became a notable painter without any formal training. In 1760, sponsored by Dr William Smith and William Allen, West travelled to Rome where he reproduced the works of Titian and Raphael. Three years later, West visited England, though he only intended it as a sojourn before his journey back to America. He did not, however, ever leave the United Kingdom. He socialised amongst the most notable artists and intelligentsia of the day, and played a role in the establishment of the Royal Academy in 1768. In 1772, King George appointed him historical painter to the court. Twenty years later, West was made president of the R.A, amd served for two terms. His works, which often captured vainglorious scenes of contemporary military tales, were highly influential in the surge of neo-classicism.

John Hall (1739 – 1797) was a British engraver and painter. Hall was a line engraver, and learned his trade from the French immigrant engraver Simon François Ravenet. He was appointed a fellow of the Society of Artists in 1765, and later served as its director in 1768, 1769 and 1771. In 1785, following the death of William Woollett, he was appointed historical engraver to George III. A portrait of Hall by Gilbert Stuart depicts him in the act of engraving Benjamin West’s painting of Penn’s Treaty with the Indians.

John Boydell (1719 – 1804) was an English engraver, and one of the most influential print sellers of the Georgian period. At the age of twenty-one, Boydell was apprenticed to the engraver William Henry Toms, and enrolled himself in the St. Martin’s Lane Academy in order to study drawing. Given the funds raised by the sales of Boydell’s Collection of One Hundred Views in England and Wales, 1755, he turned to the importation of foreign prints. Despite great success in this market his legacy is largely defined by The Shakespeare Gallery; a project that he initiated in 1786. In addition to the gallery, which was located in Pall Mall, Boydell released folios which illustrated the works of the Bard of Avon and were comprised of engravings after artists such as Henry Fuseli, Richard Westall, John Opie and Sir Joshua Reynolds. He is credited with changing the course of English painting by creating a market for historical and literary works. In honour of this, and his longstanding dedication to civil duties, Boydell became the Mayor of London in 1790.


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