In June 1774, when he was already thirty-five years old, Copley decided that
he must go to Europe. Although he intended to stay abroad just long enough to acquire
artistic sophistication, the American Revolution changed his plans. Studying in
Rome and stopping in many continental cities, Copley arrived in London in October
1775. There he was joined by his wife, children, and father-in-law, Richard Clarke,
one of the Tory merchants whose investments had been dumped overboard at the Boston
Tea Party.

In I777 at the Royal Academy, Copley exhibited The Copley Family, which records
his delight at being reunited with his family. The artist portrayed himself turning
away from a sheaf of his sketches to look at the spectator. His wife, Susanna, leans
forward to hug their four-year-old son, John Junior. Mary, who was a year younger
than her brother, lies on the sofa, while Betsy, aged six and the eldest of the
children, stands with a serious aplomb indicative of her seniority. The baby, Susanna,
tries to attract her grandfather's attention with a rattle. The background is fanciful;
no carpeted room ever merged so ambiguously into a forest glen. Copley's contemporaries
would have understood the idyllic landscape as a reference to the family's natural
simplicity and the elaborate furnishings as an indication of their civilized propriety.


  • Title: The Copley Family
  • Date Created: 1776/1777
  • Physical Dimensions: w229.2 x h184.1 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Andrew W. Mellon Fund
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • painter: John Singleton Copley
  • Theme: portrait, group
  • School: American
  • 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.

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps