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The Peaceable Kingdom

Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Bucks County
Unframed: 24 x 31 1/4in. (61 x 79.4cm) and Framed: 30 1/4 x 37in.
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1961.101.2,A-C
A dramatic grouping of carnivorous and herbivorous animals set close to the front of the picture plane, with two small children at far left and a third in the middle distance, seen over the arched back of a leopard. The animals appear to stand on the edge of a chasm, or steep bank. A tree fills the the upper right corner of the composition, while a vignette of men assembled beneath a tree (Penn's Treaty with the Indians) is set in the middle left distance. The far distance is represented in the left third of the composition by a sailing vessel floating down a body of water through a mountainous pass and a pastel-hued sky.

The 3 1/8-inch chamfered walnut frame with an outer bead is original and is documented as having been made by Edward Trego (see acc. no. 1961.1400.1).

Label:All Edward Hicks's sixty-plus peaceable kingdoms explicate Isaiah 11:6-9, but no two paintings are alike. The evolution of his compositions represent both his inner struggles and his perceptions of contemporary developments within the Society of Friends.

Hicks described this painting as "one of the best I ever done" in a letter dated September 25, 1844, written to a wealthy Middletown Friend, Joseph Watson, the client who had commissioned the work. (In the same letter, Hicks also identified the frame maker as Edward Trego; see acc. no. 1961.1400.1.) It is the only known instance of a Kingdom's having been commissioned.

Hicks began to use two leopards in his kingdoms of the mid-1840s. He showed one recumbent and submissive, the other growling and arching its back, specifics which scholars have interpreted as the artist's increasing awareness of the difficulty of bridging the Quaker schism and attaining peace among his fellow Friends. The arched leopard provides a heightened sense of drama and tension that is rarely observed in the kingdoms.

Hicks also may have used these animals to portray a system of checks and balances between the qualities or behaviors they represented, identifying his own youthful indiscretions with the leopard's behavior. Characterized as sensual and marked by boisterous activity, the leopard represented a love of excitement that conflicted with Quaker codes of simplicity, restraint, and plainness.
Provenance:Commissioned by Joseph Watson (1805-1886) of Langhorne, Pa.; to his daughter, Mary Elizabeth Watson; to her sister, Susanna Gillam Watson Hancock (d. 1928), Langhorne, Pa.; to her great-niece, Jane Watson Taylor Brey, Germantown, Pa.; to Mabel Zahn of Charles Sessler, Inc., Philadelphia, Pa.