The Peaceable Kingdom of the Branch
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Bucks County
Unframed: 32 1/4 x 37 3/4in. (81.9 x 95.9cm) and Framed: 33 x 38 1/2in.
Acc. No. 1967.101.1
The right half of the composition is dominated by a child in a brownish-gray suit, who stands, full-length, amongst a group of animals (leopard, goat, lamb, wolf, lion, and heifer). The child rests one arm over the lion's neck and, with the other hand, grasps a branch of the fruiting grapevine that stretches behind the duo. A gnarled, blasted tree appears above the grouping; below and to the left of it is a bent evergreen tree. The left half of the composition features a rock-strewn creek that meanders into the distance, with a large "bridge" created in the mass of stone above it. Trees dot the top of the bridge and, at its base, a grouping of men appears (Penn's Treaty with the Indians).
The pictorial composition is enclosed by a gold band, outside of which a wide brown border bears gold lettering on all four sides.
The borders painted onto the canvas probably served as a visual frame originally; a modern 1/2-inch, flat, black-painted frame was added as a protective measure after the painting was acquired by the Folk Art Museum.
Label:The painting is one of four early Peaceable Kingdoms today categorized as bordered kingdoms with the Natural Bridge, the latter a landscape feature that Edward Hicks derived from the lefthand side of the cartouche on Henry S. Tanner's Map of North America, published in Philadelphia in 1822. (For another Hicks painting that derived from the righthand side of the cartouche, see acc. no. 1959.102.3.)
This and other early bordered kingdoms with the Natural Bridge illustrate the constant refinement that Hicks brought to the painting process as he experimented with the interpretation of Isaiah 11:6-9 and its relationship to American Quaker history. Although he heavily relied on an engraving by Richard Westall for help in depicting and composing the animals, most of his versions of the child deviate from Westall's considerably.
As assigned by the artist, the title of this painting and other similar kingdoms comes from the vine held by the child, another motif borrowed from Westall's engraving but one that was altered slightly to suit the painter's needs. The plant and fruit symbolize the redemptive blood of Christ and, for most Christians, Holy Communion. The choice of motif was most for Hicks, a Quaker minister, since Friends did not advocate or practice outward sacraments.
Provenance:The painting was purchased from Chester R. Smith, Indianapolis, Indiana; its earlier history is undocumented.
Inscription(s):Lettered in black paint across the top is "THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM OF THE BRANCH." Beginning at the lower left corner and running around the painted brown border are the gold letters: "The wolf also shall dwell with the/lamb & the leopard shall lie down with the kid;/& the calf & the young lion & the fatling/ together; and a little child shall lead them."