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Tenth Commandment

Winslow Homer

American Art

This illustration of the biblical Tenth Commandment cast in contemporaneous terms seems a curious image for the cover of a weekly magazine with a general readership. No reference explaining the reasoning behind its commission has been located. The choice of subject, however, may have been indirectly related to the political scandals gripping the nation at the time—one of which centered on the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. “Grantism” came to encompass all manner of political corruption, avarice, and cronyism. Although the Harper’s Weekly issue for which Homer’s Tenth Commandment was the cover contained an editorial in defense of Grant, the image may have been intended as a moralizing lesson to those whose actions had weakened the presidency.

MEDIUM Wood engraving
DATES 1870
DIMENSIONS Image: 10 3/4 x 9 in. (27.3 x 22.9 cm) Sheet: 16 x 11 1/8 in. (40.6 x 28.3 cm)
CREDIT LINE Gift of Harvey Isbitts
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
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