Allegory of the United States, 1800


Richter. “An Emblem of America.” London: J. Le Petit, Sept. 24, 1800.  Aquatint by Lundin.  13 3/4 x 10.  Original hand color.  Some paper toning and a few soft creases.  Overall, very good condition.



The European artistic mind from the Renaissance through the early nineteenth century was much taken by allegory.  Personification of the continents was used to inspire investigation and teach lessons on a higher plain.  Often the continents were depicted as beautiful women and this picture of a lovely Columbia personifies not just America, but specifically the United States.  Columbia, modeled on Greek mythology, became a standard allegory of the United States towards the end of the eighteenth century.  She was often called “Lady Liberty,” representing the Independence of the U.S. and its foundation in the notion of liberty.  Here she holds two staffs, one with the American flag, emblazoned with an eagle, and the other a Phrygian cap representing liberty.  In her right hand Columbia holds a palm leaf, the symbol of victory.  This allegory was issued in 1800, shortly after the end of the American Revolution, inspired perhaps by the death of George Washington the previous year.  A number of other allegories of America, as well as the other continents, were produced about this time, but this one seems particularly rare as we cannot find any record of it, not being included, for instance, in either of the collections of the Library of Congress nor the British Museum.  This print was issued by J. Le Petit, a London publisher of separately issued prints, including a number of other allegories.  This print is an exceptional example of his work, a lovely and very rare image of the nascent United States.