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Sign for Wightman's Inn
1815-1824
Paint on pine board and frame, sand, gold leaf, iron hardware
Primary Dimensions (height x width including hardware): 57 3/8 x 32 3/8in. (145.7 x 82.2cm) Other (height x width of sign only): 55 3/4 x 31in. (141.6 x 78.7cm)
Credit Line: Collection of Morgan B. Brainard, Gift of Mrs. Morgan B. Brainard
Gallery Copy: Lions were common images on 19th-century tavern signs and trace their artistic origins back to illustrations in European natural history books. Exotic animals were sometimes exhibited at inns, providing a rare opportunity for New Englanders to see a lion in real life in an era before circuses or zoos. The lion was also historically a symbol of England.
Description: Images: On both sides, on central board, a rampant lion, with slightly different positioning of tail from side to side. On pediment scrolls, cornucopia. Text: On both sides, in banner above lion, "A. WIGHTMAN'S"; in banner below lion, "INN". Identical on both sides except that side 1 has reversed "N's". No underlying text. Construction: Large center board with thin additions nailed to each side edge, cut to oval shape. Flat, horizontal rails with pediment and skirt extensions, chamfered posts. The board, with grain oriented vertically, hangs by iron straps from the pediment rail, which is constructed of two horizontal boards set edge-to-edge, the seam lying just above the iron hanging loops. The upper board extends up to form a pediment, hand-sawn to create decorative scrolls. The bottom rails appears to be a single board, which extends down to form a skirt, hand-sawn to create decorative cusps. The upper and lower rails are joined to the chamfered posts with double through-tenons and double-pinned. Narrow horizontal moldings are applied to both top and bottom rails.
Technique Note: The frame was previously dark green but has been overpainted in black. The lion and background are repainted, with sanded paint around the lettering. The letters are gilded. The cornucopia in the pediment are executed in a more polished manner than other elements. The lion resembles illustrations in accounts of lion hunting and travel in Africa, published in the 1820s, although an exact prototype has not yet been located. Historical Note: Original location. The Wightmans' first tavern was located at Rope Ferry Bridge, at the bar of the Niantic River. In 1824 Wightman bought a six-acre property with a new house and outbuildings, located in Waterford at the head of Smith's Cove, on the New London-Norwich turnpike. By 1837-39, when Mercy Wightman advertised (repeatedly) to sell or lease the property, the crossroad was known as the "old Colchester road."
Object Number: 1961.63.51
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