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Copley painted several portraits of wealthy Bostonians such as Mrs Michael Gill. Their plain directness allies them to Scottish ‘common sense’ portraits by Allan Ramsay, rather than the aristocratic London portraits of Gainsborough and Reynolds. This may reflect the dominance of the merchant class in Boston, whose wealth was in trade rather than land and who prized material goods rather than emblems of rank. Such paintings would have looked provincial to a London audience.

Copley decided to settle in England at the time of the American Revolution. His later portraits show his assimilation of a freer and lighter English style.

September 2004