Spirit of 1776

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What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than experiencing the document that started it all — at least a painstakingly executed reproduction of the words and signatures of this country’s founders. A Tribute to The Declaration of Independence is on display at Galerie Gigi (627 St. Peter St., 713-385-7890; www.galeriegigineworleans.com) through July 11.

It isn’t the original Declaration of Independence, of course. That is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The one exhibited at the gallery is a limited-edition engraving released in 1992, with the number 0 engraving presented to President George Bush by King Don Juan Carlos I of Spain.

Jose Maria Cundin, an artist from Spain who has lived, created and displayed his art in the United States for 40 years. To replicate the Declaration of Independence as a tribute to his adopted home, Cundin formed the fine art press Millennia 3 and assembled a group of artists to present the document as a work of art. To produce an exact reproduction, Cundin selected Perico Azpiazu, one of the finest metal engravers in the world, to hand-engrave the calligraphy backwards, a painstaking process that took several years.

“The art itself is an incredible accomplishment,” saysGalerie Gigi manager Lindsay Viner. “But the fact that a Spaniard from the Basque region took almost four years to chisel out every single detail of the US Declaration of  Independence backwards onto a brass plate is the most remarkable part of the story.”

In addition to displaying the final product, the exhibit at Galerie Gigi is showing a photographic display detailing how the engraving was made (pictured). It was printed on handmade paper that weighs 500 grams.

A limited number of engravings of the Millennium III edition are available for purchase.

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