Object of the Month

John Singleton Copley

John Singleton Copley
Mrs. John Gray (1730-1763).
Oil on canvas, circa 1763.
128.2 x 101.7 cm

About the Portrait

John Singleton Copley, 18th-century Boston's preeminent portraitist, painted Mrs. John Gray most likely in 1763. His subject, Mary Otis Gray, was the daughter of James and Mary Allyne Otis of Barnstable, Massachusetts. Born in 1730, Mary had many siblings, among them James Otis, Jr., and Mercy Otis Warren, who both became active in the Revolutionary cause in America. In 1761, Mary wed John Gray, a Boston merchant, ropewalk owner, and collector of customs, and a Tory. She died on November 5 of the year that Copley painted this portrait. In 1923, a bequest of Pelham Winslow Warren gave the painting, along with mourning rings for Mrs. Gray and her infant son, John, to the Society.

Mrs. John Gray is representative of John Singleton Copley's mature American style. Although his drawing remained a weak point-here evident in Mrs. Gray's awkward right arm and her hands-Copley employed a subtler use of shading and shadow than in his earlier portraits, as well as a sophisticated composition of vertical and diagonal elements.

About John Singleton Copley

Copley Portraits at the Massachusetts Historical Society


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