Volume LIVNovember 2007Number 4

Priceless Treasures Adorn the Masonic Temple
By Andrew A. Zellers-Frederick, Executive Director The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania

19th century painting of Thomas Kittera, R.W. Grand Master of Pennsylvania, 1826-1828, by Thomas Sully.
Philadelphia's National Historic Landmark Masonic Temple is worldrenowned for its fantastic architecture and wonderful artworks. One of its priceless treasures, that is sometimes overlooked amid William Rush's sculptures or George Herzog's finely detailed frescos, is a single 19th century painting of Thomas Kittera, the Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania from 1826- 1828, by Thomas Sully. Bro. Kittera is an interesting historical individual in his own right: he was the first Grand Master to make Masons-at-Sight and was widely known as a man of culture and learning. An 1805 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he studied law and enjoyed a respected career in this field which included governmental positions as the Deputy Attorney General for Pennsylvania (1817); a prosecuting attorney in the Philadelphia's Mayor's Court (1817-18); and service in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Court of Oyer & Terminer (1821-24). He was also elected to both the Philadelphia Common Council (1821) and Select Council (1822-26) where he later served for two years (1824-26) as its president. Bro. Kittera was selected to fill a vacancy as a United States Congressman (1826-27), but was defeated in his quest for another term. It is fitting that Bro. Kittera was portrayed by the most respected portrait painter of the day, Thomas Sully, whose prominent career lasted for nearly seven decades.

Thomas Sully was born in 1783, just as the United States had finally achieved its independence with the end of the American Revolutionary War. Although originally from England, his parents brought him to the young American republic at the age of 9, where the family settled in Charleston, S.C. Sully's father initially tried to encourage him to become an insurance broker, but fortunately for us, his artistic talent became apparent and his true vocation was encouraged. Sully's work took him initially to Richmond and Norfolk, Va. The demand for an artist of his ability caused him in 1806 to settle in the rapidly growing New York City, which became his home and center for his artistic work for several years. During this time, he briefly traveled to Boston for three weeks of professional instruction by the internationally famous Gilbert Stuart, known forever for his revered painting of Bro. George Washington. Stuart undoubtedly recognized Sully's impressive talents and his need to receive additional training in one of the artistic
Recent painting of a young Benjamin Franklin, R.W.P.G.M., by David Larned.
centers of the world, London. While in London (one of his two trips across the Atlantic) for a relatively brief period of time, artistic fortune again smiled on Sully when he was able to learn from the master of portrait painting, the American-born Benjamin West. In 1810, Sully returned to the United States, but decided to make his home and the center for his career in the "Athens of America," the city of Philadelphia.

Thomas Sully quickly became the city's most accomplished portrait painter with a reputation of excellence for over half a century. Many people will contend he was the most gifted portraitist of the Romantic era, and the feeling portrayed by his works can easily be experienced in the painting of Bro. Kittera. Sully had little trouble in obtaining artistic commissions, as demonstrated by his prolific number of works, and his portraits included many notable historical individuals as Thomas Jefferson, Britain's Queen Victoria and James Madison. Sully, although to our knowledge not a member of the Masonic fraternity himself, painted the portraits of many prominent Masons, such as Brothers George Washington, James Monroe, the Marquis de Lafayette, Andrew Jackson, Benjamin Rush, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Stephen Decatur and John Marshall. It is fitting that Sully also consented to paint the portrait of an individual, Bro. Kittera, who was respected in the city in which both men simultaneously lived.

It should be noted that Sully's talents were not limited to portrait painting. He also completed compositions on such important historical topics as Washington's Passage of the Delaware, to immortalize the epic crossing in 1776, and the Capture of Major Andre of the infamous Benedict Arnold plot.

Today, these beautiful works of Thomas Sully can be viewed in museums, galleries and private collections throughout the world. The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania is fortunate to be able to count itself among these fortunate institutions, and it continues to collect beautiful and historic works of art.

The recently painted portrait of Bro. Benjamin Franklin, commissioned by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, is one of them. Painted by artist David Larned, this work takes its place among the nearly countless number of paintings and portraits on the walls of the National Historic Landmark Masonic Temple.

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