John Singleton Copley was the heir to John Smibert’s fame and eventually eclipsed the older artist in the years before the Revolution. His painting of John Erving, a successful Boston merchant, shows the remarkable technical prowess with which he reinvigorated traditional European-based styles of portraiture. Whereas Smibert depicted Erving’s wife, Abigail, against a featureless background, Copley included details such as the ruffled cuffs, silver inkwell, and prominent quill pen to indicate the sitter’s influential status.
Oil on canvas
Bequest of Alice Rutherford Erving, class of 1926
ID Number: SC 1975:52-1