Painted as a showpiece to send to a London exhibition, this painting demonstrates John Singleton Copley’s special attention to the details of props and furnishings. His portraits often created an impression of high social position, incorporating elements traditionally included in portraits of British nobility, such as the column and draped curtain. Likewise, an oriental rug, a fashionable Chippendale chair, and an exotic pet like a parrot suggested a wealthy and cultured lifestyle.
Largely self-taught, Copley’s skill at capturing the textures of fabrics, silver, hair, and skin in a highly detailed, realistic way was greatly valued by his prosperous Boston clients. Though his talent won him fame as the most accomplished painter in the colonies, Copley longed for international recognition. He left for England in 1774, where he painted heroic history subjects and royal portraits for the rest of his career.