Embarkation of the Pilgrims

Several years ago I did a series of posts on the Pilgrims.  I’m repeating them, because the past is both foundation and prologue to our present, and during these times of turmoil within and war without, the past can also give guidance for our future.

Embarkation of the Pilgrims by Robert Weir is one of eight large paintings found on the wall of the United States Capitol Rotunda. The story of the Pilgrims is not just any past, it is our past as a nation. The hopes, anxieties, courage and faith in God of that company Of plimoth plantation, not only describe days long gone, but also provide encouragement, warnings, and wisdom for our own times.

This painting depicts the Pilgrims on the deck of the ship Speedwell on July 22, 1620, before they departed from Delfs Haven, Holland, for North America, where they sought religious freedom. They first sailed to Southampton, England, to join the Mayflower, which was also making the voyage. After leaks forced the Speedwell to make additional stops in Dartmouth and then Plymouth, its passengers boarded the Mayflower. Five months later the Pilgrims settled the Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts.

The group appears solemn and contemplative of what they are about to undertake as they pray for divine protection through their voyage; the words “God with us” appear on the sail in the upper left corner. The figures at the center of the composition are William Brewster, holding the Bible; Governor Carver, kneeling with head bowed and hat in hand; and pastor John Robinson, with extended arms, looking Heavenward. Gathered around them are the men, women, and children going on the voyage. Some are dressed in traditional puritan attire while others wear more fanciful and bright garments. The armor, helmet, and musket in the foreground represent the tools that the Pilgrims will use for protection in the new and unfamiliar land. In the background on the right are the city and people the Pilgrims leave, and on the left a rainbow represents the hope and promise of what lies ahead.

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Description from Architect of the Capitol website. Click the image to enlarge.

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