In an attempt to protect the tender Southern sensibilities of Virginians, the Old Dominion’s attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, has covered the bared breast of the goddess of virtue on the Virginia State Seal. The seal is also on Virginia’s flag.
“The great seal of Virginia is circular. In the center is a figure of Virtus, the goddess of virtue, dressed as a warrior. She holds a spear in her right hand, with its point held downward touching the earth. In her left hand is a sheathed sword pointing upward. Her left foot rests on the chest of the figure of tyranny, who is lying on the ground. Above the figure is the word ‘Virginia,’ and under the figure is the state motto, ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ or ‘Thus Always to Tyrants.’ The seal, designed by George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was first adopted in 1776 and modified in 1930.”
— Commonwealth of Virginia website.
George Wythe specified that Virtus be dressed as a particular type of warrior: an Amazon. He probably believed these fierce women had only one breast to bare, having sacrificed the other to facilitate drawing a bowstring.
“The Father of American Jurisprudence,” George Wythe (1726-1806) taught Law and Classics at the College of William and Mary. His pupils included Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, James Monroe, and John Marshall. He also served as mayor of Williamsburg; if you’ve been there you’ve seen his house.
“Virginia AG’s Lapel Pins Cover State Seal’s Exposed Breast,” Aaron Morrissey, DCist.
Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
Historical note on the image here.
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