The great seal of the Commonwealth was adopted by the Virginia's Constitutional Convention on July 5, 1776. Its design was the work of a committee composed of George Mason, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, and Robert Carter Nicholas. George Wythe was probably the principal designer, taking its theme from ancient Roman mythology.
The original design was never properly cast and a number of variations came into use. Attempting to legislate uniformity, the General Assemblies of 1873 and 1903 passed acts describing the seal in detail. In 1930, a committee was named to prepare an "accurate and faithful description of the great seal of the Commonwealth, as it was intended to be by Mason and Wythe and their associates." The committee set forth the official design in use today, which is essentially the design adopted by the Virginia's Constitutional Convention of 1776.
The obverse side of the great seal depicts the Roman goddess Virtus representing the spirit of the Commonwealth. She is dressed as an Amazon, a sheathed sword in one hand, and a spear in the other, and one foot on the form of Tyranny, who is pictured with a broken chain in his left hand, a scourge in his right, and his fallen crown nearby, implying struggle that has ended in complete victory. Virginias motto, Sic Semper Tyrannis (Latin for "Thus Always to Tyrants"), appears at the bottom.
On the reverse side of the seal are the three Roman goddesses, Libertas (Liberty) in the center holding a wand and pileus in her right hand, Aerternitas (Eternity) with a globe and phoenix in her right hand, and Ceres (Fruitfulness) with a cornucopia in her left hand and an ear of wheat in her right. At the top is the word Perservando (Latin for "by Persevering"). A border of Virginia creeper encircles the designs on each side.
Official colors were established by the Art Commission in 1949 and a water color, the only official model for flag makers and stationers, hangs in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. The Secretary of the Commonwealth is designated by the Code of Virginia as the keeper of the great seal. The great seal of the Commonwealth is affixed to documents signed by the governor and intended for use before tribunals and for purposes outside the jurisdiction of Virginia.