Monday, October 2, 2017

18C Portrait of an American Woman

Mrs Sylvanus Bourne 1766 John Singleton Copley (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1738–1815 London)  The Metropolitan Museum of Art tells us that Mercy Gorham (1695–1782) was born and raised on Cape Cod, in the colony of Massachusetts. In 1718, she married Sylvanus Bourne, a prosperous merchant, and 2 years later they settled in the port town of Barnstable. The couple had 11 children. Copley painted Mrs. Bourne 3 years after her husband’s death, when she was 71 years old. She holds a book in her lap. 

The clothing worn by 18C British American women, until the end of the American Revolution, was characterized by great diversity, as one would expect in a society ranging from royal governors & wealthy landowners to indentured servants & slaves. During the period in Britain & her colonies, a woman's dress usually consisted of a gown & petticoat. The gown consisted of the bodice & skirt joined together, with the skirt open in the front to reveal the separate petticoat, which was an essential part of the dress & not an undergarment. The textiles used for the dress ranged from elegant to simple depending on the tasks of the wearer.