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Independence Day Painting by John Trumbull

Declaration of Independence (1817-1819)

The Declaration of Independence was begun in Paris, most probably at the suggestion of Thomas Jefferson, chief author of the document, who provided Trumbull with a first-hand account of the event in the Assembly Room in Independence Hall where Congress had met. Trumbull combined a desire for historical authenticity with a mission to commemorate a moment of transcendent importance. Jefferson stands at the center, surrounded by John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Benjamin Franklin, and presents the document to John Hancock, president of Congress. Trumbull chose to have the whole committee present the document rather than a single spokesman, which would have been historically accurate.

  • The first painting that Trumbull completed for the Rotunda shows the presentation of the Declaration of Independence in what is now called Independence Hall, Philadelphia.
  • The painting features the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence — John Adams, Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson (presenting the document), and Benjamin Franklin — standing before John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress.
  • The painting includes portraits of 42 of the 56 signers and 5 other patriots. The artist sketched the individuals and the room from life.
  • Thomas Jefferson seems to be stepping on the foot of John Adams in the painting, which many think is supposed to symbolize their relationship as political enemies. However, upon closer examination of the painting, it can be seen that their feet are merely close together. This part of the image was correctly depicted on the two-dollar bill version.
  • This depiction can also be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill (with Jefferson's foot moved!) (http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/trumbull.htm)

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