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Mrs. Sylvester (Abigail Pickman) Gardiner

A careful look at John Singleton Copley's lifelike description of the hands in this portrait—notice the subtle touches of white on the fingernails and joints—reveals his great strides toward a realism unmatched by his American peers. This likeness of Abigail Gardiner in a "Turkish-style" gown (then the height of London fashion) conveys the social pretensions of wealthy pro-British loyalists in politically charged pre-Revolutionary Boston. The Gardiners fled Boston at the outbreak of the Revolution in 1776 and permanently resumed their lives in London. Copley himself, whose in-laws were ardent Loyalists, had moved there with his family a year earlier.


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