"America Guided by Wisdom."



John J. Barralet. "America Guided by Wisdom: An Allegorical representation of the United States, denoting their Independence and Prosperity." Philadelphia, ca. 1815. First state, previous to Stauffer, 3115. Engraving by Benjamin Tanner. 15 1/8 x 22 3/8. Good impression. Trimmed to platemark as usual. Very good condition. Fowble, 324.

 

The War of 1812 has often been called the "Second War of Independence," especially at the time. Following a series of naval victories and battles at Baltimore and New Orleans, Americans were infused with a new optimism based on a peace treaty that arranged for them to be left alone to develop their new country. This print uses symbols of republican virtues to express pride in the new country. Six lines of descriptive text explain that the focus is on Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom, who points to an escutcheon of the United States with the motto "Union and Independence," emblazoned on a shield held by America. Thrown down at their feet and behind them is a spear and shield with the visage of Medusa. To the right of this vignette is an equestrian statue of Washington at the entrance of a grand temple. To the left the god Mercury, representing commerce, points to proudly sailing ships to indicate his approval to the goddess Ceres, who holds wheat (a symbol of agriculture), while to her back are symbols of American industry: spinning, beekeeping, and plowing. This is a rich allegory to describe America.

 

We date this print at 1815 because that year marked the end of the War of 1812, and the message is appropriate for that time. Also, in that year Benjamin Tanner (1775-1848) entered a partnership with Vallance, Kearney & Company whose names are added to a later state of this print as described by David M. Stauffer. So the imprint, as well as the wonderfully strong lines, suggests that this printing is a first state. This print is after a drawing by John James Barralet (ca. 1747-1815), an Irish artist who came to Philadelphia about 1795. He had established a reputation as a landscape and historical artist in Dublin and London. When Barralet first arrived in Philadelphia he was hired as an engraver by Alexander Lawson and soon took up painting landscapes in and around Philadelphia. Among American engravers, Barralet is credited with inventing a ruling machine for work on bank notes.



Dealer The Philadelphia Print Shop
Date: 1815
Origin Philadelphia
Artist/Maker John Barralet
Measurements 15 1/8 x 22 3/8
Inventory View Dealer's Inventory
Website http://www.philaprintshop.com
Price $3,200
Contact Donald H. Cresswell & Jonathan T. Cresswell, 215-242-4750 or  philaprint@philaprintshop.com

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