Portraits in Independence Hall Under Suspicion

Philadelphia’s Independence Hall used to feature 342 portraits of America’s founders and most important early contributors. Then in 1917, the Philadelphia City Council created a new body with jurisdiction over all the paintings there, giving more control to politicians rather than artists or historians. At the time of this article’s writing, the new body had already spurned more than 30 paintings for display, calling the works “spurious or otherwise unfit.”

“Somebody said it would be a fine thing to have all the signers [of the Declaration of Independence]. Great idea! And the portraits of signers poured in and were welcomed, regardless of credentials, and so on through various other groups of American worthies. Sometimes a silhouette, supposed to be that of somebody’s distinguished great-grandfather, would be the basis of a manufactured portrait labeled with that great-grandfather’s name and sent down to the hall. It would be taken in and given a place on the wall.”

My research couldn’t determine the number of paintings hanging in Independence Hall today, but it’s reasonable to assume that the number is now lower than 342.

Portraits in Independence Hall Under Suspicion: About Thirty Already Have Been Thrown out as Spurious by the Philadelphia Art Jury Which Is Investigating Them (PDF)

From Sunday, February 25, 1917

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Written by Jesse

March 6th, 2017 at 6:56 am

Posted in Art,Politics

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