Primary Source of the Month
Signing of the Constitution, by Howard Chandler Christy. Washington D.C., 1940.
Courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol.
Howard Chandler Christy's Signing of the Constitution depicts 39 of the 55 delegates present at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The painting was commissioned in 1939, and the 20 x 30 ft oil-on-canvas hangs in the United States Capitol.
Christy wanted the portraits in the painting to be as accurate as possible. He worked from portraits of 37 of the 39 signers pictured (he obscured the faces of the two signers for whom he could not find portraits). He also researched correct clothing, furniture, and artifacts, even borrowing a pair of George Washington's breeches from the Smithsonian Institution and some of Thomas Jefferson's books from the Library of Congress. After five years of research, Christy painted for seven months in the sail loft of the Navy Yard in Washington D.C.
For an interactive version of this painting and a listing of the delegates pictured, visit http://www.teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/christy/ .