Mrs. Sylvester (Abigail Pickman) Gardiner
John Singleton Copley
On View: American Identities: A New Look, American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, From Colonies to States, 1660–1830, 5th Floor
Portraits of Pan-American Privilege
These women’s ancestors were among the first European colonizers of the Americas. Some of those colonists crossed the Atlantic to serve the global ambitions of the various crowns of Europe, and others came as economic and religious refugees from Spain, England, and the Dutch Republic. By the eighteenth century, fabulous fortunes had been amassed throughout the region, reflected here in the European-inspired dress and jewelry worn by three privileged Americans.
Miguel Cabrera, eighteenth-century Mexico’s premier painter, portrayed Doña María de la Luz wearing imported silk brocade and five chiqueadores, or glued false beauty spots. Boston’s leading portraitist, John Singleton Copley, painted the monarchist Abigail Pickman Gardiner sporting an uncorseted dress—probably the artist’s invention, since the style was considered inappropriate in New England society but was the height of London fashion. The Hudson Valley portraitist Nehemiah Partridge captured Wyntje Van Vechten’s likeness with more restraint, emphasizing her simple hairstyle, minimal jewelry, and modest dress.
Oil on canvas
50 3/8 x 40 in. (128 x 101.6 cm)
frame: 58 1/4 x 49 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (148 x 125.7 x 8.9 cm) (show scale)
Dick S. Ramsay Fund
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John Singleton Copley (American, 1738-1815). Mrs. Sylvester (Abigail Pickman) Gardiner, ca. 1772. Oil on canvas, 50 3/8 x 40 in. (128 x 101.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 65.60
x-ray, detail, CONS.65.60_xrs_detail01.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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