Painted portrait of Leonidas Polk

Item

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Legacies Classification
Memorial Artwork
Memorial Type
Visual Work of Art
Memorialized Subject
Title
Painted portrait of Leonidas Polk
Background and Context
This portrait of Leonidas Polk, known as “The Sword over the Gown,” was painted in 1900 by Eliphalet F. Andrews and commissioned by Gen. John C. Underwood, who was a Confederate veteran and lieutenant governor of Kentucky.

The title comes from a remark reportedly made by Polk, when he was asked if he was taking off the gown of an Episcopal bishop to take up the sword of a Confederate general: “No, Sir, I am buckling the sword over the gown,” expressing his belief that fighting for the Confederacy was an extension of his service to the church as bishop.

This portrait was part of a collection of portraits of Confederate civilian and military leaders to be displayed at a Confederate memorial planned for Richmond, Virginia. The portrait collection was displayed at the United Confederate Veterans reunion in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1900, but the works never made it to Richmond because of disputes involving Underwood. It was bought at auction by the Episcopal Rev. James D. Gibson in 1910, and sold to the University in 1927. It was hung in St. Luke’s School of Theology until 1948, then moved to Convocation Hall, which then served as the University’s library.

In December 1998, local teenagers sprayed fire extinguishers on this and other portraits in Convocation Hall. Moved to the basement to await restoration, it sustained devastating water damage from a burst pipe. A Sewanee alumnus from the class of 1984 commissioned Nashville artist Connie Erickson to paint a reproduction in 2003, which hung in Convocation Hall until University officials removed it to the William R. Laurie University Archives and Special Collections in 2019. The original damaged portrait was moved to the archives, and the copy was on loan to the National Confederate Museum in Columbia, Tennessee, until the summer of 2023. It is now stored in the University Archives and Special Collections.
Physical Description
Original (1900): oil on canvas, 71" x 43" (unframed)
Reproduction (2003): oil on canvas, 96.5" x 60.35" (unframed)
Memorial Inscription
None.
Creator/Participating Person(s)
Andrews, Eliphalet F.
Erickson, Connie
Date created, installed or dedicated
May 1900
1 June 2003
Date Modified
1927
1948
December 1998
June 2021
Campus Location
Location: Institution, City, State

Position: 239 (16 views)