American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815

Grizzel Oliver Waldo (1737–1761)

probably 1760

Oil on gold-leafed copper

3 3/8 × 2 5/8 in. (8.6 × 6.7 cm)
Mabel Brady Garvan Fund

This miniature painted by John Singleton Copley—the premier portraitist of the colonial period—features the unusual medium of oil on copper. During the mid-1750s, Copley explored engraving, painting in oil on canvas, and pastel drawing; he also created portrait miniatures with unconventional materials, such as oil on ivory and oil on copper, the latter supplied by metal plates from his late stepfather’s printing studio. Here, corrosion of the copper base has caused bubbling in the painted surface, but, fortunately, the beauty of Copley’s rendering is still clear.

Having already painted portraits in miniature of this sitter’s father and stepmother, Copley captured the likeness of fresh-faced twenty-six-year-old Grizzel Oliver to celebrate her marriage in 1760. Two-thirds of Copley’s miniatures in the 1750s and early 1760s were commissioned by the Olivers, who were among the most influential British loyalist families in Boston. Married on August 11, 1760, to loyalist Samuel C. Waldo, a Harvard graduate from Falmouth, Maine, Grizzel died seven months later due to a “languishing indisposition,” marking the end of their brief union.

By the mid-1760s, Copley had built a following of prominent patrons, giving him an enviable social and economic position. When political turmoil threatened the security of his wife’s loyalist family, Copley’s concern for her and their children, as well as a desire to compete in a more sophisticated art market, led him to move permanently to England in 1774.

Made in Boston, Massachusetts, United States
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): 80, fig. 9.

Barbara Broome Semans, The Lloyd Family of New England and New York, and Related Families of Woolsey, Sylvester and Brinley, and Nelson and Temple 17th to 19th Centuries (United States: Xlibris, 2018), 473, ill.

Jules David Prown, John Singleton Copley: In America, 1738–1774 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966), 30–31, 266, fig. 72.

New England Miniatures, 1750 to 1850, exh. cat. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1957), fig. 21.

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.