James Bowdoin served as governor of the State of Massachusetts in 1785, after an active career in the government of the colony, from the 1750s to the 1770s. Although initially supportive of the royal governors, he came to oppose British colonial policy and became a strong advocate for independence.
Elizabeth (Erving) Bowdoin, James’s widow, probably commissioned the ring after her husband’s death in 1790. The ring is gold with a narrow band flaring out to meet elongated oval bezel. The black ink silhouette is on plaster set under a polished, domed rock-crystal, and signed "Miers." John Miers, who created and signed the profile, was a prominent British silhouette artist.