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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815
Subject: Andrew Oliver, American, 1706–1774

Andrew Oliver (1706–1774)

ca. 1758

Oil on ivory

2 × 1 3/4 in. (5.1 × 4.4 cm)
Mabel Brady Garvan Fund

The foremost portrait painter of the colonial period, John Singleton Copley rapidly developed beyond the talents of his peers through an uncommon facility with a variety of media, including unconventional approaches to working in miniature. Around 1758, Copley made this miniature portrait of the wealthy merchant and British loyalist Andrew Oliver in the surprising medium of oil on ivory, with the paint creating a thicker and more resilient surface than in miniatures created with watercolor. By the mid-1760s, Copley had built a following of prominent patrons among the Boston elite, and two-thirds of the artist’s miniatures in the 1750s and early 1760s were commissioned by the Olivers, who were among the most influential loyalist families in Boston. Andrew Oliver was appointed province secretary shortly after Copley painted this portrait. A few years later, an angry mob of American patriots hung an effigy of Oliver from the Liberty Tree in Boston to protest his role in enforcing the unpopular Stamp Act (1765). He was named lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1770 and died four years later.

Made in Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Not on view
18th century
Miniatures - Jewelry

Theresa Fairbanks-Harris, “Gold Discovered: John Singleton Copley’s Portrait Miniatures on Copper,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (1999): 78, fig. 6.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.