The Copley Family

John Singleton Copley1776/1777

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Washington, DC, United States

Fleeing the violence of the American Revolution, John Singleton Copley and his family settled in London in 1775. While Copley (standing at top left) tried to remain neutral, his father-in-law Richard Clarke (seated in front of the artist) supported the British. This group portrait suggests domestic harmony despite the political turmoil. The floral patterns on the rug and sofa blend smoothly into the peaceful landscape.

The Copley Family was first exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1777. It both raised the profile of the family in British society and advertised the artist’s remarkable skill.


  • Title: The Copley Family
  • Creator: John Singleton Copley
  • Date Created: 1776/1777
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 184.1 x 229.2 cm (72 1/2 x 90 1/4 in.) framed: 226.1 x 271.8 x 13.9 cm (89 x 107 x 5 1/2 in.)
  • Provenance: The artist; his son, John Singleton Copley, Jr., Lord Lyndhurst [1772-1863], London; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 5 March 1864, no. 91); bought by "Clarke" for the artist's granddaughter, Martha Babcock Greene Amory [Mrs. Charles Amory, 1812-1880], Boston;[1] her husband, Charles Amory [1808-1898], Boston;[2] their son, Edward Linzee Amory [1844-1911], New York;[3] his nephew, Copley Amory [1866-1960], Washington,[4] to his descendants, Copley Amory, Jr. [1890-1964], Cambridge, Massachusetts,[5] Henry Russell Amory [1892 1962], Santa Barbara, California, Katharine Amory Smith [b. 1908], Washington, Walter Amory [b. 1924], Duxbury, Massachusetts, and Elizabeth Cole Amory [b. 1955], Princeton, New Jersey;[6] sold 1961 to NGA. [1] The annotated copy of Christie's _Catalogue of the Very Valuable Collection of Pictures, of the Rt. Hon. Lord Lyndhurst, deceased_ at the Boston Atheneum indicates that "Clarke" was the purchaser, as does _The Art-Journal_, London, 1 April 1864, 120. The initials BA that are entered next to the lot number indicate that it was purchased for Martha Babcock Amory. George Redford, _Art Sales_, 2 vols. (London, 1888), 2: 20, thought the painting was bought in, but James Hughes Anderdon, who was at the sale, noted in his copy of the catalogue (Royal Academy) that there was a round of applause after the painting was auctioned [Jules David Prown, _John Singleton Copley_ 2 vols. (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1966), 2:404]. News of the sale appeared in the (Boston) _Daily Advertiser_, 19 March 1864. For Mrs. Amory's dates see John William Linzee, _The Linzee Family of Great Britain and the United States of America_, 2 vols. (Boston, 1917), 2:766. [2] For Charles Amory's dates see Linzee 1917, 2:766; he placed the painting on loan at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [3] Edward Linzee Amory continued the loan of the painting to the Museum of Fine Arts from 1898; his dates are in Linzee 1917, 2:766. [4] For Copley Amory's dates see Linzee 1917, 2:795, and _The New York Times_, 18 April 1960, 29 (obituary). [5] The birth date of Copley Amory, Jr. is in Linzee 1917, 2:796; his death date was provided by Walter Amory, 19 November 1990, to Ellen Miles. [6] Birth and death dates are from Linzee 1917, 2:796, or have been provided by family members.
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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