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John Singleton Copley

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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Singleton Copley

by Gilbert Stuart
circa 1784
26 1/2 in. x 22 1/4 in. (673 mm x 565 mm)
NPG 2143


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This portraitback to top

Described by Copley’s son, Lord Lyndhurst, as the ‘best and most agreeable likeness of [my father] ever produced’, [1] NPG 2143 was commissioned in 1783 by Josiah Boydell for his new London gallery at 90 Cheapside, one of a series of fifteen portraits of painters and engravers connected with his firm (see also Hall NPG 693). The majority were finished by April 1784. On 6 August the Morning Herald announced that Copley’s

‘celebrated picture of the death of Major Pierson is fixed up in Mr. Boydell’s gallery. The frame in which it is placed is a beautiful piece of carved work. Three ovals are placed on top of the frame, in the centre of which is Mr. Copley’s portrait, painted by that able artist, Mr. Stuart. The portrait of Mr. Heath, who is to engrave the subject, is on one side of the frame, and that of Mr. Josiah Boydell, who is to make the drawing, on the other’ [2]
The Death of Major Pierson (250 x 280) is now in the Tate Gallery; Stuart’s circular portraits (each 60 diameter) of James Heath and Josiah Boydell are now identified as those respectively in the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. [3] It is not clear when NPG 2143 became detached, but the Death of Major Pierson remained with Boydell until his death in 1805; it was acquired after the Boydell sale of 1806 by Copley, probably with NPG 2143. A copy made by Robert S. Chase in 1947 is with the Bostonian Society, Boston, Mass.

Footnotesback to top

1) W. T. Whitley, Gilbert Stuart, 1932, p 48. There was little competition.
2) Quoted by Whitley 1932, loc. cit., and J. D. Prown, John Singleton Copley, 1966, II, p 307.
3) The three are illus. together, with an Adam sketch for the design of the frame, in E. B. Neff, John Singleton Copley in England, exhibition catalogue, Washington, Houseon, Milwaukee, 1995, p 68. Robert Adam’s designs are discussed in greater detail by E. Harris, Furniture History, XXVI, 1990, pp 93-95, figs.1, 2.

Referenceback to top

Park 1926
L. Park, Gilbert Stuart, 4 vols., 1926, no.190.

Physical descriptionback to top

Brown eyes, grey powdered wig, wearing a red coat with white neckcloth.

Provenanceback to top

Josiah Boydell;1 J. S. Copley; his son, Lord Lyndhurst (d. 1865); Lady Lyndhurst (d. 1901), who bequeathed it in trust to her daughter, Georgina, Lady Du Cane (d. 1927), thence to the NPG, where received in 1927.

1 Not identifiable in the Boydell sale, Christie’s, 8 March 1806, lot 98.

Exhibitionsback to top

Boydell Gallery, London, 1784; British Painting in the Eighteenth Century, Montreal, Toronto, Toledo, 1957-58 (66); Stuart, Washington, Rhode Island, 1967 (11); This New Man, Smithsonian, 1968; 1776, National Maritime Museum, 1976 (353).

Reproductionsback to top

W. C. Edwards 1830 as Gainsborough (from the original in the possession of Lord Lyndhurst).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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