Joseph Sherburne

Artist: John Singleton Copley (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1738–1815 London)

Date: ca. 1767–70

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 50 x 40 in. (127 x 101.6 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Amelia B. Lazarus Fund, 1923

Accession Number: 23.143


The subject of this astonishingly vital portrait was a wealthy Boston merchant. He chose to be painted wearing a loose but elegant banyan, or lounge robe—a popular gentleman’s fashion at the time—and a turban instead of a formal wig. Most striking about the portrait is its convincing sense of reality, which Copley achieved through various means. He meticulously painted every fold of cloth and bit of pattern in Sherburne’s damask gown as well as every fleshy wrinkle on his face and hands. Likewise, by lighting the picture strongly from the left, Copley created a tangibly solid figure.