The Baptism of Pocahontas

Creator: John Gadsby Chapman

Context: This painting was created in 1840, when the United States was aggressively expanding westward and had adopted a policy of "removal," pushing many Indian tribes of the South and the Midwest off their lands.

Audience: This painting was created for the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. It was designed to reach a wide audience of politicians, foreign dignitaries and other visitors to the Capitol.

Purpose: To show that natives could become part of American society.

Historical Significance: This painting illustrates the belief among white Americans of this period that some Native Americans could be assimilated into white society. Pocahontas' choice to accept baptism illustrated the possibilities of this integration. The placement of this painting in the Capitol building, one of the centers of the American government, increases its importance as a symbol of the American ideal of equality.