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The Peaceable Kingdom

1826-1828
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Bucks County
Unframed: 29 1/4" x 35 1/4" (74.3 cm. x 89.5 cm.) and Framed: 31 3/4" x 37 3/4" x 2 1/8" (80.7 cm. x 95.8 cm. x 5.5 cm.)
Oil on canvas
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1933.101.2,A&C
A scene enclosed within four lettered borders whose corner blocks also bear inscriptions. At lower (front) right, a child in a white frock and red drape stands holding a sprig of grapevine in his proper right hand; the other arm is draped over the neck of a male lion, who stands beside him.
Other animals grouped about the child and lion are a goat, wolf, lamb, leopard, and heifer with small horns. The group is gathered at the base of a twisted, leaning tree that appears to stretch out over a body of water behind them. In the middle ground at far left, a mixed group of westerners (Euro-Americans) and Native Americans appears to be discussing various goods. A sailing vessel appears on the water in the center distance. A bank seems to separate the child and animals from the group at middle left.

The decorative border on this painting was likely originally intended to function as a visual frame for it. The picture is currently (1/10/2011) in a modern copy (1933.101,2,C) of a frame (1933.101.2,B) that was added to the picture in the 1960s, a mid-nineteenth-century 2-inch gilded cyma reversa molding.


Contemporary nineteenth century molded wood frame, gilded 2" width. Religious landscape scene, surrounded by imitation frame painted on canvas in gold letters against brownish purple background. Imitation frame has cornerblocks painted into each corner, each with lamb lying down with a dove with sprig of green in its beak above it, and an inscription in different languages, all outlined with gold and black lines. Center scene: in lower right a young child holds purple grapes in right hand and has left arm wrapped around neck of standing lion. Child wears white tunic with red drapery. Near them are a white faced red cow, a seated white goat, and reclining leopard, a reclining lioness and a tiny white kid. Behind these animals is the trunk of a large oak tree. There seems to be a gully between them and in the mid-distance to the far left the Penn's Treaty group. One of Penn's men is kneeling and offering fabric to brightly feathered Indians under the shade of a tall tree with other Indians and men looking on. In the center mid-distance is a body of water believed to be the Delaware Water Gap with a tall masted ship sailing in it through an open space into the distance, blue sky, with white and grey clouds.
Label:Among Edward Hicks's numerous versions of the Peaceable Kingdom is an early series featuring this basic pictorial composition framed by rhymed lettered borders interpreting William Penn's treaty and the prophecy of Isaiah 11: 6-9. The figure is sometimes referred to as the Divine Child, since the artist's intention was to interpret biblical scripture rather than represent Christ. The animals, while positioned in the traditional manner of Hicks's early works, are more alert and forecast the creatures' expressions as evolved in the 1830s Kingdoms.

This painting is particularly noteworthy for the quality of the lettering and the decorative corner blocks in the borders --- all indications of Hicks's skillfulwork as a sign, coach, and decorative painter.

Provenance:The earliest known owner seems to have been Arthur Edwin Bye (in the twentieth century); to Victor Sparks, New York, NY; to the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI; to Abby Aldrich R Rockefeller, by whom given to Colonial Williamsburg.
Inscription(s):Within the four corner blocks, the words "Innocence/ Meekness/Liberty" appear in four different languages, i.e., in English at lower left, in French at upper left, in Latin at upper right, and in Greek at lower right. The borders are lettered in gold thusly: at top, "The leopard with the harmless kid laid down,/And not one savage beast was seen to frown," on the right, "The lion with the fatling on did move,/A little child was leading them in love," on the left, "The wolf did with the lambkin dwell ‚ in peace,/His grim carniv'rous nature there did cease;", and, in the lower border, "When the great PENN his famous treaty made/With indian chiefs beneath the elm tree's shade."
In black paint in script in the the lower border above the word "made" is: "Edw. Hicks Pinxt [the "t" is superscript]".