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Tree of Life

In 2004, the Springfield Museums were gifted over 750 lithographs published by the firm of Currier & Ives. Over the last three years, additional gifts of Currier & Ives have increased the collection to over 900 prints.

Currier & Ives produced over 8000 different images during the operation of their firm from 1834 to 1907, including landscapes, horse racing prints, historical views and pictures of the homestead. Religious prints, such as Tree of Life, were especially popular during the 1840s . In this intriguing scene, virtues compose the roots, trunk, branches and leaves of a strong, flourishing tree. A traditional, horned devil attempts to cut the tree down while an angel stands in the way. Another angel waters the tree to provide it with the resources to grow even stronger.

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit” Matthew VII. 17.
“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Matthew VII 20.

The Tree of Life is represented in many religions. The Christian interpretation, from the book of Genesis, indicates that God planted the tree in the Garden of Eden along with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. According to belief, when eaten the Tree of Life’s fruit provides everlasting life.

Adam and Eve ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge after the two were convinced by a serpent that consuming the fruit would impart divine wisdom rather than death. Adam and Eve became overwhelmed by fear and shame after consuming the fruit and were banished by God from the Garden of Eden to prevent them from eating from the Tree of Life.

Nathaniel Currier’s image of the Tree of Life shows twenty-eight fruits labeled with words such as joy, purity, truth, alms, charity justice and temperance. The word “Grace” adorns the top of the print while “Hope, Love, Faith and Repentance” decorate the trunk of the tree. The angel to the left of the tree pushes Satan away while the angel on the right showers the tree with water from a watering can, encouraging the tree’s growth.

Date: Undated

Artists: Nathaniel Currier
Medium: Hand-colored lithograph
Measurements: 14 x 10 inches
Access Number: 2005.D02
Gift of Ann G. Mann

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