John Singleton Copley (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1738–1815 London)
Pastel on laid paper mounted on canvas
24 x 18 in. (61 x 45.7 cm)
Gift of Thomas J. Watson, 1940
Not on view
In September 1762, Copley asked the Swiss pastelist Jean-Étienne Liotard to send “a sett of Crayons of the very best kind such as You can recommend [for] liveliness of colour and Justness of tints. In a word let em be a sett of the very best that can be got.” Copley excelled in pastel, an extremely difficult medium. He recognized his own skill and wrote to his colleague Benjamin West that he thought “my best portraits done [are] in that way.” This portrait of the Boston merchant Ebenezer Storer exemplifies the technical and artistic skill that Copley achieved in the medium. Taking full advantage of the brilliance afforded by pastel, he rendered Storer’s damask banyan in rich tones of green that convey not only the fabric’s floral pattern but also its weight and sheen. Copley also captured the soft pile of the velvet turban, the smoothness of Storer’s forehead, and the stubble of his shaved sideburns and cheeks.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Inscription: [on paper pasted to verso]: Ebenezer Storer/ Of Sudbury Street/ Boston Born 1699 died 1761