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  OIL ON CANVAS PAINTING OF THE SEAL OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, ca 1868-1880's
Dimensions (inches): frame - 21" x 20.75", work - 16.25" x 16"
Description:
The rendition of the Illinois State Seal was rendered in oil on canvas. The design is a loose interpretation of the actual, displaying a bold, spread wing eagle, facing to the right, with a billowing streamer in its beak and an oval version of a federal shield worn about its neck on a rope or chain, like a pendant. The shield contains 17 visible stars (illustrated by dots). This may or may not be meaningful, as there seems to be room for 4 more beneath the streamer. Illinois joined the Union as our 21st state in 1818. The pales (vertical stripes) on the shield number 11, however, which is incorrect, so the counts may merely be decorative.

The eagle is supposed to stand upon a rock on a prairie, with a body of water behind it and a rising sun in the distance. On some variations of the design that I have encountered, including this one, the eagle stands on something within the water, presumably Lake Michigan. In this instance the perch looks like a lidded barrel and there is a pier in the background.

The placement of the mottos “State Sovereignty" and "National Unity” was controversial following the Civil War. State Sovereignty was to appear first, but in 1867, Illinois Secretary of State Sharon Tyndale proposed that the phrases in the state motto be reversed, which made sense given the recent secession of the Southern States. Illinois' own Abraham Lincoln had worked hard to preserve national interests, echoed here in the altering of the language. Though Tyndale’s suggestion was rejected, he was nonetheless charged with creating a new design, which he did and was soon adopted. In the new version he managed to send a message by turning the word “sovereignty” upside-down, with the surmised explanation that this fit accordingly with the orientation / position of the streamer as it twisted about the eagle.

In this painting, the streamer is unlike that of either the pre-1868 or post-1868 versions. In this instance neither seems to take precedence, with "State Sovereignty" clearly on top, but "National Union" made in larger letters before the shield and the eagle's breast.

The earliest two versions of the seal of Illinois, adopted in 1818 and 1839, respectively, were extremely similar to the Great Seal of the United States, with the eagle suspended in mid air. The landscape wasn't added until 1868. Thought it was to appear on a white ground instead of tan, the painting can reasonably be dated between that year and the 1880's. The general style of the eagle, craquelure of the paint surface, and overall feel of the work are very much 19th century.

In addition to the other various differences, it is of interest to note that the design lacks the dates of "1818" (Illinois statehood) and 1868 (date of the new version of the seal), both of which were a part of the official version of the seal at the time that this was painted.

  Mounting: The painting has been framed in a modern molding with a traditional American profile. The finish is near-to-black with slight reddish-brown overtones and a gold inner lip.

Condition: The canvas was removed from its original stretcher, cleaned and re-mounted on a new canvas backing, and given a new stretcher. This was done by a previous owner. A small tear in the canvas was archivally repaired with cloth on the reverse, near the top edge and just right of center. No in-painting was done at the tear. An extremely tiny amount of in-painting was done at the extreme edges of the canvas, at the point where the brown ring intersects it.
   
Primary Color: brown, gold, tan, red, white, blue
Earliest Date: 1868
Latest Date: 1889
For Sale Status: Available
Price $3,800
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com
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