Elizabeth Storer Smith (1726–1786) Artist: John Singleton Copley (American, 1738–1815)

1769

American Paintings and Sculpture

On view, 2nd floor, American Art before 1900

John Singleton Copley’s portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Smith, set in gilt frames that only the richest Bostonians could afford, capture the image of wealthy Americans on the eve of the Revolutionary War. Isaac Smith, the uncle of Abigail Adams, and thus by marriage of Founding Father John Adams, was a successful Boston merchant who sold wine and other imported goods. Wearing a powdered wig and an elegant plum-colored suit with gold buttons, he sits at a worktable, preoccupied with the papers at hand. Elizabeth Smith gazes directly out at the viewer. She holds grapes in her lap, perhaps a subtle allusion to her husband’s business. Luxury is evident everywhere, from the armchair upholstered in yellow damask, to the pearls in her hair and around her neck and the rich silk of her dress and robe. Copley provided his sitters with images that are simultaneously realistic and idealized—recording not only how the Smiths actually looked but also the way in which they wanted to be perceived.

Medium

Oil on canvas in original gilded white-pine frame

Dimensions

50 1/8 × 40 1/8 in. (127.3 × 101.9 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Maitland F. Griggs, B.A. 1896, L.H.D. 1938

Accession Number

1941.74

Culture
Period

18th century

Classification
Disclaimer

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 records is ongoing.

Provenance

Provenance

Maitland Fuller Griggs (1872–1943), New York; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1941
Bibliography
  • American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2023), 24, 64–65, no. 16, ill
  • Susan E. Klepp, Revolutionary Conceptions (Chapel Hill, NC: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2009), p 152, no.12, ill., ill
  • Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 2, 21, 64, 199–200, no. 105, ill
  • Margaretta M. Lovell, Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 149, fig. 56
  • Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 84, 87, fig. 77b
  • Jules David Prown, John Singleton Copley, 1738–1815, exh. cat. (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1966), 55, 57, 60, 137, fig. 40
  • Jules David Prown, John Singleton Copley: In America, 1738–1774 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966), 60, 68–70, 71, 98–99, fig. 256
  • Barbara Parker and Anne Wheeler, John Singleton Copley: American Portraits in Oil, Pastel, and Miniature (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1938), 184, fig. 97
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

figures (representations), human figures (visual works), portraits

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