Besides his Peaceable Kingdoms, Edward Hicks painted signal events in American history, including Washington Crossing the Delaware, the Declaration of Independence, and, most famously, Penn's Treaty with the Indians. This latter theme provided Hicks with a political and historical “event” that he could cite as an example of the partial fulfillment of biblical prophecy of a peaceable kingdom on earth. After about 1830, Hicks began to paint the scene individually for his Quaker friends.

The event portrayed refers to the disembarkation of the Quaker William Penn in 1682 and his meeting with Native Americans in Delaware at Shackamaxon to exchange gifts for land. Quakers viewed this meeting as a model of mutual consent, which they believed should rule future negotiations with the indigenous civilizations. In fact, Penn did meet with the Lenape Indians, but no documentation of a treaty exists. The story is now thought to be apocryphal, and Benjamin West's version of the event an eighteenth-century idealization of colonial relations.

In the painting, the portly Penn stands at center, pointing to the charter, surrounded by his Quaker colleagues, who include Penn’s secretary James Logan (holding the scroll), the Quaker minister Thomas Story (behind Penn), and the deputy governor Thomas Lloyd (cloaked). At left, the Lenapes survey the presents assembled, including bolts of cloth and a tray filled with Jew's harps, their function demonstrated by one of Penn’s company. The use of Jew’s harps is unusual in Hicks’s works; it probably came from a biography of William Penn by Mason L. Weems ("Parson Weems”), who asserts that one hundred of these instruments helped to pay for Pennsylvania land. Penn’s landing on Dock Street is featured in the background and derives from another print source included in John F. Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania (1830).

RELATED EXAMPLES: Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Williamsburg, Virginia; Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Mercer Museum of the Bucks County Historical Society, Doylestown, Pennsylvania; Delaware County Historical Society, Chester, Pennsylvania; Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont; NGA; Meyer P. Potamkin, Philadelphia; private collection, New York (ex coll. The Dietrich American Foundation, Philadelphia). Four others are owned anonymously.

Book excerpt: Warren, David B., Michael K. Brown, Elizabeth Ann Coleman, and Emily Ballew Neff. American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection. Houston: Princeton Univ. Press, 1998.


Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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Artist
Edward Hicks, American, 1780–1849
Title
Penn's Treaty with the Indians
Date
c. 1830–1840
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Canvas: 17 5/8 × 23 5/8 in. (44.7 × 59.9 cm)
Credit Line

The Bayou Bend Collection, gift of Alice C. Simkins in memory of Alice N. Hanszen; with frame acquired with funds provided by Miss Ima Hogg, by exchange

Current Location
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
FOLK ART ROOM
Accession Number
B.77.46
Classification
Painting
Provenance

Jacob Paxson Temple, Tanguy, Chester County, Pennsylvania; to Anderson Galleries, New York; "The Jacob Paxson Temple Collection of Early American Furniture and Objects of Art, The Anderson Galleries, New York, January 23-28, 1922, lot 1319; to Will E. Hogg (1875-1930), in Jan. 1922; to his brother, Mike Hogg (1885-1940); to his wife Alice Nicholson Frazer Hogg, later Mrs. Harry Hanszen, Houston, Texas; to her niece, Alice C. Simkins, formerly Houston, Texas; to the Bayou Bend Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1977.