DescriptionJOSEPH CHRISTIAN LEYENDECKER (American, 1874-1951)
Thanksgiving, 1628-1928: 300 Years (Pilgrim and Football Player), The Saturday Evening Post cover, November 24, 1928
Oil on canvas
28-1/4 x 21 inches (71.8 x 53.3 cm)
Signed with monogram lower left: JCL
Heritage Auctions, Dallas, October 31, 2004, lot 25127;
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
M. Schau, J.C. Leyendecker, New York, 1974, p. 142, illustrated.
J. C. Leyendecker generated dozens of covers for The Saturday Evening Post's central Thanksgiving issues, which reinforced themes of American bounty, hard work, and traditional family celebrations. His collection of Thanksgiving props was vast and included garden fruits and vegetables and live turkeys from the grounds of his mansion in New Rochelle, New York.
In Thanksgiving 1628-1928, Leyendecker shows the evolution of the holiday over 300 years by comparing the stalwart Pilgrim of the first Thanksgiving to a battered but tough modern-day football player. Indeed, as early as 1876, when the Intercollegiate Football Association held a college bowl on Thanksgiving Day, this holiday and football had become intertwined. Here, Leyendecker may be specifically referencing "John Harvard," the university's famed Pilgrim mascot, next to a member of the Crimson football team. Sporting the handsome, angular facial features of Leyendecker's "Arrow Shirt Man," the mirror-image figures stand broad-shouldered and resolute, ready to defend their "team." Both wear knee-high pants, stockings, and protective armor -- a metal breastplate on the Pilgrim and neck and shoulder pads on the quarterback. And both have symbolic props, a rifle and leather-bound Bible for the Pilgrim and a football for the athlete. Leyendecker further gives weight to the Pilgrim by basing him on Augustus Saint-Gaudens' well-known 1881 bronze public monument in Springfield, Massachusetts, The Puritan -- a model he had used for several earlier Post Thanksgiving covers. (J. Schiller, Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, Norman Rockwell Museum, online article). With such strong pioneering and sports heroes, Americans in 1928 could certainly count their blessings.
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