Jasper Francis Cropsey, The Spirit of Peace

Jasper Francis Cropsey: The Spirit of Peace (1851) Oil on canvas
The Spirit of Peace
Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Bequest of Charles Knox Smith
60 x 80 in.

This romantic and imaginary landscape is filled with palm trees, temples, tombs, ruins of previous civilizations, and an array of active figures. The benefits of peace are evident in the tranquil integration of philosophy, the exchange of knowledge, the visible signs of trade and commerce, and the arts of dance, music, and representation. Cropsey emphasized that this invented view of the ancient world expressed his belief that Christianity was historically inevitable. The shepherd with his goats in the lower left is a direct reference to Christ guarding his flock while the lion, boy, and lamb carved on the monument on the round temple allude to the Old Testament prophecy that the kingdom of peace, brought into being by the Messiah, would be a place of "no violence or destruction in God's creation, even in the animal kingdom. Natural enemies will no longer be enemies. The food chain will be unchained.” (Isaiah 11:6)

Cropsey completed The Spirit of Peace in response to the American war with Mexico, an armed conflict that lasted for two years in the wake of the 1845 U.S. annexation of Texas. The painting has a companion, The Spirit of War, which hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Cropsey’s contemporaries admired both works as great achievements.

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