ⓘ Declaration of Independence (Trumbull)

Declaration of Independence (Trumbull)

ⓘ Declaration of Independence (Trumbull)

Declaration of Independence is a 12-by-18-foot oil-on-canvas painting by American John Trumbull depicting the presentation of the draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress. It was based on a much smaller version of the same scene, presently held by the Yale University Art Gallery. Trumbull painted many of the figures in the picture from life, and visited Independence Hall to depict the chamber where the Second Continental Congress met. The oil-on-canvas work was commissioned in 1817, purchased in 1819, and placed in the United States Capitol rotunda in 1826.

The painting is sometimes incorrectly described as the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The painting shows the five-man drafting committee presenting their draft of the Declaration to the Congress, an event that took place on June 28, 1776, and not the signing of the document, which took place later.

The painting shows 42 of the 56 signers of the Declaration; Trumbull originally intended to include all 56 signers but was unable to obtain likenesses for all of them. He also depicted several participants in the debate who did not sign the document, including John Dickinson, who declined to sign. Trumbull had no portrait of Benjamin Harrison V to work with, but his son Benjamin Harrison VI was said to resemble his father, so Trumbull painted him instead. As the Declaration was debated and signed over a period of time when membership in Congress changed, the men featured in the painting never were in the same room at the same time.

In the painting, Thomas Jefferson appears to be stepping on John Adams foot, which many thought was supposed to symbolize their relationship as political enemies. However, upon closer examination of the painting, it can be seen that their feet are merely close together. This part of the image was correctly depicted on the two-dollar bill version.

Three Union Jacks and a single English flag can be seen hanging on the farthest wall in the painting, though this is not depicted in all versions, most notably the one seen on the two-dollar bill.


1. Key to historical figures depicted in the painting

The following key to the 47 figures in the painting follows the numbering used by the U.S. government publication "Art of the Capitol" in the illustration of the key shown in this section but provides a different hopefully clearer description of which figure is where in the painting, so numbers are not entirely in order.

Key to figures in each group, listed from left to right:

Four men seated on the far left:

  • 2. William Whipple
  • 5. Thomas Lynch, Jr.
  • 3. Josiah Bartlett
  • 1. George Wythe

Seated at the table on the left:

  • 4. Benjamin Harrison

Seated together to the right of Harrison and in front of the standing figures:

  • 6. Richard Henry Lee
  • 8. George Clinton
  • 7. Samuel Adams

Five figures standing together on the left:

  • 9. William Paca
  • 13. Arthur Middleton
  • 12. William Floyd
  • 11. Lewis Morris
  • 10. Samuel Chase

Three seated figures in the back between the two sets of standing figures:

  • 16. George Walton
  • 15. Charles Carroll
  • 14. Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Set of three figures standing together in the back:

  • 24. William Ellery
  • 25. George Clymer
  • 23. Stephen Hopkins wearing a hat

Ten figures seated:

  • 17. Robert Morris first on the left at the table
  • 29. Francis Hopkinson
  • 22. Abraham Clark
  • 21. Robert Treat Paine
  • 19. Benjamin Rush
  • 27. Joseph Hewes
  • 26. William Hooper
  • 18. Thomas Willing
  • 28. James Wilson
  • 20. Elbridge Gerry

Five figures standing in front the Committee of Five:

  • 30. John Adams
  • 32. Robert R. Livingston
  • 33. Thomas Jefferson
  • 34. Benjamin Franklin
  • 31. Roger Sherman

Four background figures seated together near the right corner of the room:

  • 38. Samuel Huntington
  • 37. John Witherspoon
  • 35. Richard Stockton
  • 36. Francis Lewis

Two figures standing in the right corner of the room:

  • 39. William Williams
  • 40. Oliver Wolcott

Two foreground figures at the central table:

  • 41. John Hancock seated
  • 42. Charles Thomson standing

Three figures standing at right:

  • 45. Edward Rutledge
  • 43. George Read
  • 44. John Dickinson

Two figures seated at far right:

  • 46. Thomas McKean
  • 47. Philip Livingston

Note: - Not a signer of the final Declaration of Independence but depicted in painting. Although Charles Thomson was one of two members listed by name in the earlier Dunlap Broadside as having attested to the Declaration, and many historians believe he had signed the original document that was lost. Clinton was not present at the signing of the Declaration.


2. Unpainted signers

There were 14 signers of the Declaration who did not appear in the painting:

  • Thomas Stone Maryland
  • Button Gwinnett Georgia
  • Francis Lightfoot Lee Virginia
  • John Morton Pennsylvania
  • John Hart New Jersey
  • Thomas Nelson, Jr. Virginia
  • George Taylor Pennsylvania
  • Lyman Hall Georgia
  • Carter Braxton Virginia
  • Caesar Rodney Delaware
  • James Smith Pennsylvania
  • Matthew Thornton New Hampshire
  • John Penn North Carolina
  • George Ross Pennsylvania

3. On U.S. currency and postage stamps

Trumbulls Declaration of Independence signing scene painting has been depicted several times on United States currency and postage stamps. It was first used on the reverse side of the $100 National Bank Note that was issued in 1863. The depiction was engraved by Frederick Girsch of the American Bank Note Company. The same steel engraving was used on the 24¢ stamp issued six years later as part of the 1869 pictorial series of definitive U.S. postage stamps.

Trumbulls painting is presently depicted on the reverse of the two-dollar bill. Featured in it are 40 of the 47 figures from Trumbulls painting. Cut out from the scene are: the farthest four figures on the left - George Wythe, William Whipple, Josiah Bartlett, and Thomas Lynch, Jr.; the farthest two figures on the right - Thomas McKean and Philip Livingston; and one of three figures seated in the left rear - George Walton. Additionally, two unrecognized figures were added: one in between Samuel Chase and Lewis Morris and another between James Wilson and Francis Hopkinson, bringing the total number of figures shown in this presentation scene to 42.


4. Other versions

Trumbull painted a smaller version only 20.875 by 31 inches 53.02 cm × 78.74 cm) entitled The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 1786–1820 that is now on view at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut.

  • paintings were: The Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown by John Trumbull The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull Washington Crossing the Delaware
  • signatory of the Declaration of Independence He was later Governor of New Hampshire and Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court of Judicature
  • approbation to these two works and assisted Trumbull with the early composition of the Declaration of Independence General Richard Montgomery is shown in
  • after Colonel Arthur St. Clair of Pennsylvania read the Declaration of Independence to assembled troops. Mount Independence is a naturally strong defensive
  • Quebec, Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, Declaration of Independence etc. Trumbull gave the paintings to Yale in consideration of an annuity of n, 000 and subject
  • He was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and also of the Articles of Confederation as a representative of Connecticut and the
  • one - year terms. The longest was that of the first governor, Jonathan Trumbull who served over 14 years, but 7 of those as colonial governor the longest - serving
  • the adjacent home of Gov. Jonathan Trumbull Sr. One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence William Williams, was a native of Lebanon, and son - in - law

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