The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
Artist: John Trumbull, American, 1756?1843
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.
This object is on view at the gallery.
Alan Shestack, ed., Yale University Art Gallery Selections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1983), 5051, ill.
Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 10 (detail), 13, fig. 10.
Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 2, 2526, 66, 80, 8687, 94, 96, 219, no. 33, ill.
Eleanor Phillips Brackbill, An Uncommon Cape: Researching the Histories and Mysteries of a Property (Albany: State University of New York, 2012), 96, fig. fig. 6.3.
"Reception and Meaning in John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2013): 11718, fig. 2.
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery's complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.