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Accession Number 1865.001
Catalog Number 1865.001.001
Object Name Painting
Title Perry's Victory painting
Description Large-scale oil-on-canvas painting of Perry's Victory by William Henry Powell. As the first painting commissioned by the Ohio General Assembly for the Ohio Statehouse in 1857, Perry's Victory depicts a battle on Lake Erie with the British during the War of 1812. Central to the composition, which is filled with action and movement, Perry is seen standing in a dingy, mid-battle, changing ships. He began the battle on his flagship, the Lawrence, but after hours of battle it was severely disabled, and Perry was rowed out to the Niagara. After a fierce battle, the British surrendered on September 10, 1813. Perry's victory was a turning point in the war for the United States. The British supply lines were cut off and they were forced to abandon Detroit. Perry became a national hero.

Due to an initial disagreement over payment for the work, Powell exhibited the painting at other locations in the country including Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. This painting was installed in the Ohio Statehouse in 1865, and the U.S. Congress' Joint Committee on the Library commissioned Powell, on March 2, 1865, for a painting “illustrative of some naval victory,” to be placed at the head of the east stairway in the Senate wing of the Capitol. It seems certain that he was expected to repeat his Ohio Statehouse subject on a larger scale. He did so, painting it in a temporary studio inside the U.S. Capitol and completing it in 1873; it currently hangs in the Senate hallway.

The Ohio Statehouse's painting of Perry's Victory has a Greek Revival or Heroic-style frame that was recreated, from few remaining images of the original 1865 frame, in 1996 by Gold Leaf Studios, in Washington, D.C. Weighing 600 pounds, the figured and seasoned Honduran mahogany stock was milled, stenciled, gilded and polished. The elaborate corner shields are highlighted by thirteen composition stars, water gilded and burnished, and contrasted with fluted stripes in the shield.
Date 1865
Artist Powell, W. H. (William Henry), 1823-1879
Notes During the War of 1812 Oliver Hazard Perry was assigned command of the U.S. forces on Lake Erie. In Septmber 1813, Perry set sail for Put-In-Bay with a small fleet of nine ships to engage the British. After a fierce battle the British surrendered on September 13, 1813. Perry's victory on Lake Erie was a turning point in the war for the United States. The British supply lines were cut off and they were forced to abandon Detroit.
People Perry, Oliver Hazard, 1785-1819
Powell, W. H. (William Henry), 1823-1879
Signed Name Not signed
Frame size 18' by 14'
Accessories The carved, tooled and gilded central title plaque reads "Perry's Victory on Lake Erie, Sep. 10, 1813 by Powell."
Material Oil Paint/Canvas/Wood
Provenance The State of Ohio entered into a contract with artist William H. Powell on April 29, 1857 in conformity with a joint resolution of the Ohio General Assembly passed April 17, 1857: "RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF OHIO, That the state house commissioners are hereby authorized to complete a contract with W.H. Powell, Esq., for a painting descriptive of Perry's Victory on Lake Erie, said painting to be of a size not less than twelve feet by sixteen feet, and sufficiently elaborate to convey a full and truthful history of that great battle, and when completed, to be placed in the rotunda of the state house for the purpose of illustrating to the people of the state this interesting passage in our history--the painting to be completed within five years,and to cost not more than five thousand dollars, and no appropriation of money shall be made for this purpose until the picture is ready for delivery. . . "

Powell finally delivered the portrait to the Statehouse in March, 1865. He argued that the painting had cost him more in supplies and time than the original agreed upon price of $5,000. He asked for $15,000, and after much deliberation the Ohio General Assembly paid him $10,000: "Be it enacted, that the Governor be and is directed to purchase from W.H. Powell the historic picture of Perry's victory, now on exhibition in the rotunda, and to pay therefor a sum not exceeding ten thousand dollars, to be paid on the Governor's order out of the general revenue . . the contract of purchase to include all costs and charges of adjusting the picture in its proper place in the rotunda of the state-house. . . Passed April 18, 1865."

The painting was damaged in 1891 when bunting in the rotunda caught on fire. There are no details about the extent of the damage. The General Assembly appropriated funds for its repair.

In 1966, during a Statehouse renovation, the painting was taken down, rolled up and put into storage. The details of what happened to the frame are unavailable. In 1977 several state officials took up the cause of returning the painting to the rotunda. It was found in a warehouse, badly deteriorated, and was sent to Louis Pomeranzta in Illinois for conservation. It was then returned to be rehung in its place in the Statehouse rotunda. There is no information about how it was framed.

In April 1994 the painting was taken down and stored in a temporary crate during the massive renovation of the Ohio Statehouse. It was reframed and rehung for 1996 reopening of the Statehouse and currently hangs in the rotunda.

The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board took over the care of the Statehouse and its collections in 1988.



Subjects Paintings
Lake Erie, Battle of, 1813
Ohio--History--War of 1812--Campaigns
Ohio--History--War of 1812--Naval operations
Collection Statehouse Artwork Collection