Abigail Bromfield Rogers, by John Singleton Copley, 1786 38
When Abigail Adams 2d visited the London studio of artist John Singleton Copley in February 1786, she found Abigail Bromfield Rogers (1753–1791) sitting for a portrait (Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 9 Feb. 1786
, below). A stunning image was taking form on Copley's canvas, where the 32-year-old Rogers was depicted against a dramatic landscape and sky as a lady promenading in a flowing satin dress trimmed with lace, complemented by an oversized hat bedecked with ribbons and ostrich plumes. (Frank W. Bayley, A Sketch of the Life and a List of Some of the Works of John Singleton Copley
, Boston, 1910, p. 84).
Abigail Bromfield Rogers was the daughter of Henry Bromfield, a merchant of Boston and London. Abigail's mother, Margaret Fayerweather Bromfield, died of smallpox when her daughter was eight years old, and a year later Abigail's father married Hannah Clarke of Boston. In 1769 Hannah Clarke's sister married John Singleton Copley. Thus, the painter of the London portrait was the step-uncle of his subject (Daniel Denison Slade, “The Bromfield Family,”
:38–39; John B. Carney, “In Search of Fayerweather: The Fayerweather Family of Boston,”
:66–67; Martha Babcock Amory, The Domestic and Artistic Life of John Singleton Copley
, Boston, 1882, p. 20).
Abigail Bromfield married Boston merchant Daniel Denison Rogers on 15 October 1781. John and Abigail Adams and the Rogerses were acquainted with each other before the Rogers family moved from Boston to Europe in 1782. During their time together in London, the couples became intimate friends. The Copleys moved in the same circle and became especially close to Abigail Bromfield Rogers during a 1785 scarlet-fever epidemic when Rogers took care of three of the Copleys' children while the parents nursed two others, both of whom eventually died (“Genealogical Memoir of the Family of Rev. Nathaniel Rogers,”
:67; Abigail Adams to John Adams, 17 July 1782
, and note 1
, vol. 4:343, 348; Amory, Domestic and Artistic Life
, p. 106–107; Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 22 Jan. 1786
, and note 47
The Adamses were saddened by the Rogerses' departure for America shortly after Abigail Bromfield Rogers sat for her portrait. “He is a worthy Man, and she one of the best and most amiable of women,” Abigail Adams wrote to Mary Smith Cranch. “There is not an other family who could have left London that I should have so much mist, go and See her my sister when she arrives. You will find her one of those gentle Spirits in whom very little alteration is necessary to fit for the world of Spirits, and her Husband seems to be made on purpose for her” (21 March 1786
Courtesy of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums. Gift of Paul C. Cabot, Treasurer of Harvard University, 1948–1965, and Mrs. Cabot.