John Trumbull’s epochal painting, The Declaration of Independence, portrays Thomas Jefferson presenting the very first draft to Congress, or in other words, the very first steps in declaring the independence of the United States. The document was subsequently signed by 56 men, among them, those considered the Founding Fathers, in 1776. If you’ve taken a class on American history, you will not have missed learning about this culturally important piece.
The oil-on-canvas painting is 12 feet by 18 feet, and it is largely based on the same scene it depicts. Trumbull did put tremendous effort into portraying each figure in detail in the painting, and he also paid a visit to Independence Hall in order to more accurately depict the chamber where the historic Second Continental Congress had gathered. The painting was commissioned in 1817.
Some 241 years later, this painting has been resurrected by none other than the descendants of the signers themselves. The initiative was conducted by the company Ancestry.com, which has indeed managed to re-create the painting of the Founding Fathers.
Just a glance at the original painting from 1819, and then its 2017 reincarnation, provides an insight into how much things have progressed and changed, especially highlighting a multicultural reality in the recent re-creation of the group portrait.
The re-creation of Trumbull’s historic painting comes at a time when the question of immigration is a hot topic for many, and the emblematic trait of the United States as the great “melting pot” of cultures is emphasized.
See faces of our Founding Fathers’ #descendants in our recreation of famous Trumbull painting commemorating Declaration of Independence. pic.twitter.com/m47qNGUaRL
— Ancestry (@Ancestry) July 4, 2017
The original depicts an image composed of all white men, but its version 241 years later shows men, women, and people of color at the center of the photo. One of those people is Shannon Lanier, who happens to be the sixth great-grandson of President Thomas Jefferson. In a statement he made to CBS News, Lanier says, “When you see the new picture, the new image, it’s a picture of diverse people. Black, white, Hispanic, Native American—a little bit of everything—Asian, and that’s more of a representation of this country.”
Multicultural descendants of Founding Fathers come together to re-create iconic Declaration of Independence painting https://t.co/G6prWLlTtw
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) July 5, 2017
For many descendants, the news of their ancestry came as a surprise. For instance, Andrea Livingston, who is half-Filipino, recently found out she was the eighth great-granddaughter of Philip Livingston.
It’s really awesome seeing the descendants of our Founding Fathers recreate the iconic Declaration of Independence painting pic.twitter.com/tr1Ia6Asme
— slim_hesher??? (@slim_hasher) July 5, 2017
Laura Murphy, also in the picture, happens to be the seventh great-granddaughter of Philip Livingston. She has stated, “If we can build some connection to our history, it may give us a greater degree of compassion and empathy and humanity, which is what I think the country needs right now.” In fact, both Laura and Andrea now are newly found cousins.
.@Ancestry published an ad recreating the 1776 painting of The Declaration of Independence,’ featuring a Filipina –
— Balitang America (@balitangamerica) July 5, 2017
Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence painting has been depicted a few more times throughout history. It has previously been incorporated on U.S. currency and postage stamps, while its first usage was on the reverse side of the $100 National Bank Note, in 1863.
The depiction has also been engraved by Frederick Girsh of the American Bank Note Company, and the exact same steel engraving has further been used on the 24¢ stamp within the 1869 pictorial set of definitive U.S. postage stamps.
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At present, Trumbull’s painting can also be seen on the reverse side of the US two-dollar, having 40 out of the 47 figures featured on it, while the original painting hangs in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.