Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Izard, by John Singleton Copley, 1775 68
This large, double portrait of Ralph Izard (1742–1804) and Alice De Lancey Izard (d. 1832) was painted in Rome in early 1775. The Izards, then on a tour of the continent, had met John Singleton Copley at Naples and with him had toured nearby Greek and Roman ruins. The portrait recalls the visit and reflects Copley's interest in artifacts at a time when he was considering doing a painting on a classical subject.
Ralph Izard and Alice De Lancey were married in 1767. He was a native of South Carolina and heir to extensive plantations there. She was the daughter of Peter De Lancey and the niece of James De Lancey, former lieutenant governor and chief justice of New York. John Adams described her in his Autobiography as “a Lady of great beauty and fine Accomplishments as well [as]
perfect purity of conduct and Character through Life” (JA, Diary and Autobiography
In 1778 Ralph Izard was a diplomat without a mission. The Izards had taken up residence in London in 1771, but with the outbreak of the war for independence they traveled to Paris with the intention of returning to America. Those plans were postponed when the congress appointed Izard commissioner to Tuscany in May 1777. Tuscany's refusal to receive a representative of the United States, however, caused Izard to remain at Paris, where he soon joined Arthur and William Lee in their disputes with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane. Recalled in 1779, Izard returned to America in 1780 and later served as a United States senator (
; Jules David Prown, John Singleton Copley
, 2 vols., Cambridge, 1966, 2:251–252).
Ralph Izard played a brief but important role in John Adams' diplomatic career through a series of exchanges with Adams over the Franco-American treaties signed in February 1778. Izard questioned the suitability of several articles in the treaties and, in several letters written in September and October 1778, placed his objections before Adams. In his written replies Adams was noncommittal, but in conversations preceding the exchange of those letters he was apparently less tactful. As a result, Izard charged Adams with threatening him with the congress' displeasure over his opposition to Articles 11 and 12 of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, an accusation that the congress considered in the spring of 1779, during its inquiry into the conduct of American diplomats in Europe. Outraged that Izard's un•
supported statement would be considered by the congress, Adams contemplated a public defense, but was dissuaded by James Lovell and Elbridge Gerry from an action that probably would have destroyed his public career (to Izard, 20
September, 2 October 1778
; from Ralph Izard, 24
8 October 1778; from Lovell, 13 June
and 14 September
1779; from Elbridge Gerry, 29 September 1779
, all below).
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund.