Why is this 19th-century folk sculpture displayed with 20th-century art?
John Singleton Copley
Born 1738, Boston, Massachusetts
Died 1815, London, England
Portrait of Mrs. Joseph Scott, ca. 1765
Oil on canvas
The Members' Fund
Mrs. Scott was the wife of a Boston merchant, an active Loyalist, who sold supplies to the British troops in Boston on the eve of the Revolutionary War. The Scotts fled for England in 1776. Copley had left for England two years earlier.
Copley was the most successful artist of his day. Why
Copley was successful because he captured the material possessions of his sitters with his brilliant rendering of textures. He was able to turn paint into silk, as seen in Mrs. Scott's dress. His clients were primarily prosperous Boston merchants.
What makes Mrs. Scott stylish?
Mrs. Scott is wearing the latest fashions of the British aristocracy, popular with Boston merchant families. She wears a "sack," an English-style dress for married women made of expensive imported silk. In her hair is a "Chinese pompom," a hair ornament worn by tasteful English ladies.
Whose pearl necklace is Mrs. Scott wearing?
We don't know. The necklace appears in a number of other Copley portraits and is a reminder that Copley's portraits were often fictions designed to enhance the prestige of the sitter. The background drapery and the pose, taken from engravings after European court portraits, are also fictions.