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Declaration of Independence of the United States of America
FINE ART PRINTS. New Canaan, 1950. First edition of Szyk's patriotic masterpiece and largest illumination.
FIRST EDITION. Honoring the document with which the fledgling United States proclaimed its independence from Great Britain, this illumination features a portrait of George Washington, scenes of the Revolutionary War, and national symbols such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the bald eagle. The complete text of the Declaration of Independence is framed by iconic elements excerpted from the great seals and flags of the U.S. states and territories: 41 along the top and right, 13 others adjacent to the names of the Declaration’s signers.
Alongside the signers of the Declaration Szyk provides a visual history of the United States flag. The left column shows three flags said to have flown during the Revolutionary War. The predominantly blue one is called the Bunker Hill flag, whose upper left corner contains symbols both of new country (the pine tree) and of Great Britain (St. George’s cross). The pine tree appears also on the flag below with the phrase “An Appeal to Heaven.” Adopted in 1775, this banner was designed by George Washington’s secretary, Colonel Joseph Reed. The pine tree is prominent because it was a longtime symbol of New England, and sacred to the Native Americans. “An Appeal to Heaven” is a reference to John Locke’s political writings which defended the right to revolt. The Gadsden flag (designed by General Christopher Gadsden) features a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread On Me.” The rattlesnake, like the bald eagle, is unique to America and is representative in that its rattles, like the U.S. states, come together to sound warning when disturbed and while it will not attack unless provoked, its strike is deadly.
The right column is topped by the Continental Colors flag (also known as the Grand Union flag). Considered the first U.S. flag bearing resemblance to the Stars and Stripes, it combines Great Britain’s Union Jack in the upper left with the stripes of the United States, and was in use from December 1775 to June 1777. Below is the famous Betsy Ross flag, in use from June 1777 through May 1795. Last, but not least, is the nation’s flag in its contemporary form.
DEDICATED TO THE TOWN OF NEW CANAAN where Arthur Szyk lived, this edition of the Declaration of Independence has come to be known as the “New Canaan edition.” Upon completion of the original work of art, it was dedicated on July 4, 1950, in a festive celebration in New Canaan, Connecticut. This is one of Szyk’s last works and the largest of his illuminations. Arthur Szyk died in New Canaan in 1951.
Declaration of Independence of The United States of America. New Canaan Edition, Illuminated by Arthur Szyk. New Canaan, CT, 1950. Image size measures 29½ inches x 23½ inches. Sheet size measures 37 inches x 29 inches. First edition collotype lithograph in nine (9) colors on heavy stock.