Test your knowledge with a quiz
West, Penn's Treaty
- Benjamin West’s Penn’s Treaty with the Indians illustrates a popular legend about the founding of Pennsylvania Colony. In this story, although he had been granted the rights to the land by King Charles II, Penn followed Quaker ideals and met peacefully in 1682 to trade with the leaders of the local Lenni Lenape peoples.
- This painting mythologizes the relationship between colonizers and local Native peoples. Painted about 100 years later, it was intended to establish the moral and ethical claims to this territory by illustrating the mutual benefits of this exchange of gifts for land. The painting was also meant to bolster the reputation of Thomas Penn, who had been less fair in the fraudulent Walking Purchase of 1737, and whose king-like authority made him unpopular in the Revolutionary War era.
More to think about
Although they are called history paintings, images like Penn’s Treaty with the Indians often create or perpetuate a myth or idealized story. What are some other examples you can think of where people were able to create their versions of history as the truth? Think of another historical legend where the popular version differs from the historical fact. Are there artworks that have helped create this fiction?