Monday, August 26, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1763 John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 Mrs. Daniel Sargent (Mary Turner Sargent) San Fran Fine Arts

The de Young Museum in San Francisco tells us that according to her son, Mrs. Daniel Sargent sat for this portrait on 15 different occasions, sometimes remaining still for up to 6 hours. During one sitting, while the artist briefly left the room, Sargent glanced at the painting and was astonished to find that Copley had erased the portion of the canvas that depicted her head. This anecdote provides just one of many examples of Copley’s painstaking perfectionism; he was known to often rework areas of the canvas until a precise likeness was achieved. Commissioned to paint Sargent shortly after her marriage, Copley incorporated into the portrait symbols of love and fertility. For example, in her right hand she holds a scallop shell, a reference to Venus, the goddess of beauty and love. Likewise, the waterfall cascading from the stone wall signifies virtue, fertility, and life.