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Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States by Howard Chandler Christy

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by Howard Chandler Christy

About this Painting

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Signed: l.r. Howard Chandler Christy, Sail Loft, U.S. Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., April 1940
(This painting hangs in the east stairway in the House wing of the United States Capitol. More information about the painting…)

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Not much is known about the story behind the Christy painting of the Signing of the Constitution (on 17 September 1787) despite the fact that it is conventionally acclaimed as the best single picture ever created of the American Founding. To be sure, Christy’s rendition is not the only one that portrays the American Founding. Barry Faulkner’s more accessible and competing version of the Signing in the National Archives comes to mind. Faulkner’s 1936 tableau rendition—coinciding with opening of the National Archives—of the Constitution portrays 25 delegates—three of whom declined to sign, three more who left early—standing in an ancient Roman setting. By contrast, Christy’s painting makes a great effort at historical authenticity, engages in political interpretation, captures the Convention at work, and brings the American Founders to life. MORE

Notes: Only 39 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention are pictured in the Christy painting.

Not included are the 3 delegates who did not sign the Constitution: Edmund J. Randolph (Virginia), George Mason (Virginia), and Elbridge Gerry (Massachusetts).

Also not included are the 13 delegates who left the convention: Oliver Ellsworth (Connecticut), William Houston (Georgia), William L. Pierce (Georgia), Luther Martin (Maryland), John F. Mercer (Maryland), Caleb Strong (Massachusetts), William C. Houston (New Jersey), John Lansing, Jr. (New York), Robert Yates (New York), William R. Davie (North Carolina), Alexander Martin (North Carolina), James McClurg (Virginia), and George Wythe (Virginia).