Curator‘s Comments

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.

The Honorable John Erving (1693–1786)

John Singleton Copley. American, 1737–1815

The Honorable John Erving (1693–1786), c. 1772

Oil on canvas

Bequest of Alice Rutherford Erving, class of 1926

ID Number: SC 1975:52-1