Benjamin West. “William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians when he found the Province of Pennsylvania in North America 1681”.
London: John Boydell, 1775 (printed in the 20th Century). 163/4x23(image) engraving by John Hall. Printed on heavy wove paper. Faint foxing in upper left hand margin not affecting image. Rich later impression in very good condition. Snyder: 238; Fowble: 130.
Legend has it that William Penn signed a treaty with the Indians for his land in 1681 under the Treaty Elm, located in what is now Kensington. Though the scene is apocryphal, Benjamin West’s famous painting of the event is one most copied of all pictures of Philadelphia. The painting was commissioned by William Penn and it was finished in 1771. This is an example of the first print made from that painting, published by John Boydell in London in 1775. West’s depiction was accepted throughout Europe and America as an accurate portrayal of this legendary event, and it has become one of the most influential images in Pennsylvania iconography.
The print shows and honest looking William Penn trading goods for the rights of the land. The Indian and Europeans all appear very civilized. The idealized figures of the Indians were modeled from statues in the Vatican which West sketched when studying in Rome. While completely fictitious, the several large building shown under construction in the background were intended to imply the prosperity of Pennsylvania, the same intent of the many ships seen riding in the Delaware off in the distance. An influential and fascinating eighteenth century image.