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Using his half-brother Henry Pelham as a model, Copley set out to create a work demonstrating his inventiveness and technical skill. He took special care in rendering textures-the boy's satin collar, the squirrel's bushy tail, and the mahogany table. The pose contributes to the intimate mood of this sensitive portrayal of a contemplative youth. In 1766 Copley sent this painting to London to be evaluated by Sir Joshua Reynolds, president of the Royal Academy, and other leading British painters. Their enthusiasm, and Copley's own ambitions, eventually led Copley to London, to measure his talents before a more sophisticated audience than he could find in Boston.

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