JOHN SINGLETON COPLEY (1738–1815)
Portrait of Mary Montagu and Her Brother, Robert Copley, 1804
Oil on canvas, 102 x 74 in.
RECORDED: F. W. Bayley, The Life and Works of John Singleton Copley (1915), pp. 33, 179 // Guy Pène Du Bois, “Mistresses of Famous American Collections: The Collection of Mrs. E. H. Harriman,” in Art and Decoration (April 1917), pp. 290, 296, illus. p. 290 in situ in the drawing room at Arden House, Harriman, New York // Theodore Bolton and Harry Lorin Binsse, “John Singleton Copley,” in The Antiquarian XV (December 1930), p. 118 // Jules David Prown, John Singleton Copley, vol. II (1966), pp. 373–74, 388, 427, fig. 652 illus.
EXHIBITED: Royal Academy, London, 1804, no. 31
EX COLL.: The Montagu Family, England, by descent; to sale, Christie’s, London, July 23, 1903, no. 85, as Mrs. Mary Montagu (Mary Wilmot Copley) on Terrace with her Son; to Marshall; T. J. Blakeslee, New York, by 1910; to Mrs. Edward H. (Mary Williamson Averell) Harriman, New York, by 1917 until 1932; by descent to her son, William Averell Harriman, New York, until 1986; the property of a family trust, until 1998; to [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York]; to private collection, until the present
The present portrait of Mary Wilmot Copley Montagu and her brother Robert Copley was painted in 1804, when John Singleton Copley was sixty-eight years old. He exhibited it at the Royal Academy, together with three other major works, Baron Graham (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), Mrs. Richard Crowninshield Derby as St. Cecilia (private collection), and The Right Honorable Viscount Dudley and Ward (The Utah Museum of Fine Art, Salt Lake City). The four, taken as a group, were clearly intended as an emphatic statement of the painter’s undiminished capacity. The reviewer for the London Morning Post noticed this double portrait particularly, saying that it was “graceful and elegant; and the general effect is extremely rich and harmonious” (April 28, 1804). The subjects of this work were the children of friends of the artist and his wife. Although they shared a family surname, there is no known familial relationship. The common surname, though, may have facilitated the friendship.