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Chapter Twenty-Four. George Washington and the Constitution

Whit Ridgway

Subject History » Political History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics political theory

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00026.x


Howard Chandler Christy's famous painting, Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States , is a masterful statement of American memory. Painted on the eve of American entry into World War II, the portrait depicts accurate images of many of the thirty-nine founders who signed the Constitution. Christy scoured the nation to find contemporary portraits of the founders. He highlighted several leaders, such as Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison sitting in front of the podium, while skillfully hiding the faces of those images he could not find. No image is more striking than George Washington's. He stands on an elevated stage while presiding over the Philadelphia Convention, which he actually did between May and September 1787. Indeed, Washington is the focal point of the painting. The light streaming into the chamber highlights him and simultaneously seems to emanate from him as it reflects on Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison, who sit in front of the podium. As members gather to sign the Constitution, or gesture to be recognized, Washington strikes a stately pose. Compared to the other delegates, some of whom are wearing colorful and resplendent clothing, Washington is portrayed simply yet elegantly, in a black suit. He is physically larger than anyone else in the room, particularly as compared to the delegate actually signing ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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