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MFA Images: Portraiture

  • MFA Images: Portraiture - Slide

  • Head of Queen Tiye

    1390–1352 B.C.

    Description

    By the second year of his reign, Amenhotep III was married to his "great royal wife," Queen Tiye. We know more about Tiye than we do about any other Eighteenth-Dynasty queen with the exception of Hatshepsut who ruled as pharaoh. The names of Tiye's parents, both commoners, were proclaimed far and wide on a series of large commemorative scarabs and circulated throughout the empire - an unheard-of practice. No previous queen figured so prominently in her husband's lifetime.

    Just as many images of Amenhotep III show him as a god, this head of Queen Tiye shows her as a goddess. The attributes of the goddess Hathor - cow horns and sun disks - on her headdress emphasize her role as the king's divine, as well as earthly, partner. She even has the king's facial features. In contrast, the large enveloping wig, encircled by a floral wreath and a band of rosettes, is not a conventional goddess's hairdo but that of a contemporary lady of fashion. The combination of divine and queenly attributes intentionally blurs the lines between deity and mortal ruler.

    The head was acquired in the Sudan and is carved of Sudanese stone. It very likely comes from Amenhotep III's temple to his queen at Sedeinga in northern Sudan, where Tiye was worshipped as a form of Hathor. Her memory survives there today in the name of the neighboring village, which is locally known as Adey, from Hut Tiye, "the mansion of Tiye." The temple at Sedeinga was the pendant to Amenhotep III's own, larger temple at Soleb, about 14.5 kilometers (9 miles) to the south. Indeed, the emphasis on the queen's role as the king's divine female counterpart provided the model for Nefertiti in the reign of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) and anticipated the divine queens of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 20.3 x 11.5 x 12 cm (8 x 4 1/2 x 4 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Peridotite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    21.2802

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Herm-bust of Menander

    Late 1st century B.C. or early 1st century A.D.

    Description

    The very tip of the nose is missing. The surface on the right side of the face and neck is corroded and worn. The bust takes the form of a herm, with slots for wooden inserts, on which garlands could be hung. The neck is inclined toward the left shoulder, and the head is turned slightly to the subject's right. The man portrayed is in the prime of life.

    Menander was the leading writer of "New Comedy" whose dramas concerned lively, though highly unusual, domestic crises. His plots, known from Latin adaptations by Plautus and Terence, involve scheming slaves and kidnapped daughters. The model for this portrait, probably set up in the Theater of Dionysus at Athens, couples visionary intelligence and a lean, athletic grandeur in a way that is paralleled in portraits of Alexander the Great by Lysippus.

    Scientific Analysis:
    Harvard Lab No. HI226: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.48 / delta18O -4.64, Attribution - Pentelikon, Justification - Fine grained marble, Petrographic Analysis - maximum grain size (1.1, 1.2 mm), accessory minerals (dolomite, quartz), Mg present.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 51.5cm ( 20 1/4 in.); length (of face): 19.6 cm (7 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Marble (from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens)

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    97.288

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Head of Gudea

    2144–2124 B.C.

    Description

    Head of Gudea in smooth, polished diorite, wearing a turban surrounded by tight, stylized curls.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 23.18 cm (9 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Diorite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    26.289

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • The Great Good Man

    1942

    Marsden Hartley, American, 1877–1943 American

    Description

    Although most of the American Scene painters rejected European modernism and radical abstract styles, Marsden Hartley embraced abstraction in his early years and found figurative painting near the end of his life. Born in Maine, Hartley had become part of Alfred Stieglitz's circle in 1910 and then spent several years traveling in Europe absorbing the modernist styles of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, and Wassily Kandinsky. Until 1937 when he resettled in Maine, Hartley traveled in avant-garde circles, moving frequently from place to place in Europe and America. After trying out different subjects and styles throughout his career, he ended up reaffirming his Americanism by painting landscapes in Maine, New Mexico, and Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 1940 he explored that most American of subjects: Abraham Lincoln. Between the world wars, Lincoln's reputation grew to epic proportions, in part because of Carl Sandburg's folksy biography of him. Hartley painted three portraits in homage to the Civil War president, and he also wrote two poems about him: "American Ikon-Lincoln" and "A. Lincoln-Odd, or Even."

    Hartley painted "The Great Good Man" near the end of his career. His portraits of Lincoln were among a series of images of his heroes, including the artist Albert Pinkham Ryder and the seventeenth-century English poet John Donne. Larger than life, "The Great Good Man" is bold and iconic. Basing his painting on an 1862 photograph of Lincoln by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, Hartley employed Cézannesque brushstrokes to create the planes of the president's face and rough strokes of black paint to convey his features, including the mole on his cheek and his almond-shaped eyes. Although academically trained, Hartley appreciated American folk art, which enjoyed a revival of interest during the early twentieth century. The bold color contrasts and graphic strength of "The Great Good Man" recall similar qualities in folk portraits of the nineteenth century. The palette of black, white, flesh tones, and striking blue for the background, the heroic scale of the painting, and the intentionally crude technique combine to form a memorable image of Lincoln and a triumph for Hartley in the year before his death.

    This text was adapted from Davis, et al., MFA Highlights: American Painting (Boston, 2003) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.

    Details

    Dimensions

    101.28 x 76.52 cm (39 7/8 x 30 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on Masonite

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1990.376

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Portrait of a small boy

    about A.D. 50

    Description

    This is the portrait of a boy two to three years old; the plump cheeks indicate that he could hardly be older. The fact that the bust is draped and includes more of the breast than is usual in the Julio-Claudian period suggests that the portrait is to be dated in the second half of the first century A.D. The bust could have been inserted in a rectangular terminal shaft running to the ground.

    Portraits of the very young Nero (or Britannicus) about A.D. 50 parallel this likeness of an anonymous child in arrangement of the hair, drapery, and in stylistic details. A bust of a baby boy in Copenhagen, originally from the tomb of the Licinian family at Rome, has a general form and specific details that hardly differ from those of the Boston boy, emphasizing the timeless qualities of these early imperial child portraits. The Copenhagen portrait has been dated either to about 25 B.C. or A.D. 40.

    Only the tip of the nose is missing; the edges of the drapery show slight damage. The surface has taken on a slightly shiny quality, from cleansing with acid.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x length (of face): 24.5 x 9.2 cm (9 5/8 x 3 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Marble, seemingly from the Greek islands

    Classification

    Religious and cult objects

    Accession Number

    01.8202

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Mask of Queen Malakaye

    664–653 B.C.

    Description

    Gilded silver mask of Queen Malakaye who wears a striated wig and broadcollar.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 13 x 11.5 x 3.9 cm (5 1/8 x 4 1/2 x 1 9/16 in.)

    Medium

    Gilt silver

    Classification

    Tomb equipment , Masks

    Accession Number

    20.1059a

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Portrait head of a late Ptolemaic ruler (Ptolemy IX?)

    Late 2nd–early 1st century B.C.

    Description

    The three times life-sized head, found at Memphis in what appears to have been a temple or shrine of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, was carved in Greek marble, with hair, the tip of the nose, and beard finished in stucco. Reddish ground color remains in the pupils of the eyes and on the lips. There are traces of stucco on the neck and possible touches of gold on the stucco in the hair. The marble surface below the beard was smoothed and polished, then scarred by diagonal incisions to hold the stucco, suggesting the portrait did not originally have a beard. The complete statue must have been about twelve feet high if seated, and well over fifteen feet if standing. The head comprises only a marble mask and neck, the area behind being hollowed out.

    With its large eyes, long face and aquiline nose, this is a powerful and unforgettable image of a semi-divine king. It continues, while altering and exaggerating, the tradition of late third century Ptolemaic portraiture. The head was converted from a slightly earlier, beardless image. It was cut down at the sides of the neck, and a beard and new hairline were created with stucco. Most scholars agree that the head bears closest resemblance to Ptolemy IX (reigned 116–107 and 88–80).

    The head was broken across the forehead into three pieces or very bad cracks, which have been rejoined and filled in.

    Marble, probably from the Greek island of Paros, retouched with stucco
    (J. B. Ward-Perkins: Parian marble, similar to that of Hadrian from Athribis)

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 64 x 28 x 26 cm (25 3/16 x 11 x 10 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Marble, probably from Paros, with added stucco

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    59.51

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Portrait of a philosopher, probably Democritus or perhaps Hermarchus

    about A.D. 50; Roman copy of a Greek original

    Description

    This portait seems to have been baseed on a Classical Greek original from the 4th century B.C. Portraits of this type have long been identified as Hermarchus, who became the head of the Epicurean school of philosophy at Athens after the death of Epicurus in 270 B.C. Recently, however, it has been argued that this rather dry and severe image must be earlier than the Early Hellenistic style portraits of the leading Epicureans - Epicurus himself, Hermarchus and Metrodorus, and that it represents Democritus, the forerunner of the Epicurean school. Democritus advanced the ideas that the world is made up of atoms and that the human spirit should seek tranquillity, moderation, pleasure and wisdom.

    Condition: Except for a large chip over his left eye and in the front bottom edge of the bust, and slight chipping down the surface of the nose and on the edges of the ears, this portrait is extremely well preserved. Its surface has been carefully cleaned. A trace of iron-colored stain still marks the neck and the drapery fold around it, which have been roughly worked for insertion into a bust, herm, or possibly a statue.

    Authenticity questioned by M. Moltesen (and A. Claridge ?), June 1998: reply from JH, July 2, 1998).

    Scientific Analysis:
    Harvard Lab No. HI737: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.57 / delta18O -5.94, Attribution - Pentelikon, Justification - White, fine grained marble.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 39 cm (15 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Marble from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1972.971

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Statue of King Senkamanisken

    643–623 B.C.

    Description

    Standing statue of Senkamanisken with the left foot striding forward and arms at his sides, with the fists clenched. Inscription in column at back. Crown, kilt, sandals and ornaments were originally covered in gold sheet.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 147.8 x 50.1 cm (58 3/16 x 19 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Granite gneiss

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    23.731

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Bearded male head

    about 2nd century B.C.–1st century A.D.

    Description

    Alabaster head of beared man. Carved plaster hair. Inlaid limestone eyes with inlaid obsidian pupils; one pupil inlay missing. Inlay hole below lips and above the chin.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 19.5 x 16.5 x 13 cm (7 11/16 x 6 1/2 x 5 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Alabaster with inlaid eyes of limestone and colored stone and hair of plaster

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    2001.261

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Colossal statue of King Aspelta

    593–568 B.C.

    Description

    Inscribed down column at back.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 332.1 cm (130 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Granite gneiss

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    23.730

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Head of a female sphinx

    1897–1878 B.C.

    Description

    This nearly life-sized head of a royal woman comes from a sphinx. The ancient Egyptians viewed sphinxes both as symbols of royal authority and as manifestations of the sun god. Accordingly, both male and female members of the royal family had themselves portrayed as sphinxes. Female sphinxes, however, are exceedingly rare before Dynasty 12, and males remained more common throughout the Middle Kingdom.

    Carved of glistening quartzite, this woman is identified as a queen or princess by the royal uraeus cobra on the brow of her wig. While the long, striated wig, large ears, and straight mouth are typical Middle Kingdom features, the modeling of the face is remarkable. When compared to the idealized youthfulness of Lady Sennuwy, this face is decidedly more lifelike. The careful rendering of the full cheeks, the high cheekbones, the hollows beside the nose, and the lines around the mouth and chin convey a real sense of individuality and maturity often lacking in representations of Egyptian women, leading some scholars to suggest that the statue approaches true portraiture, rare in Egyptian art in any period.

    While the original context is unknown, the statue almost certainly stood in a temple. It is reported to have come from a site near ancient Heliopolis, the cult center of the sun god and therefore a particularly appropriate setting for a sphinx.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Width x height x depth: 24 x 27 x 22 cm (9 7/16 x 10 5/8 x 8 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Quartzite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    2002.609

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Hadrian

    about A.D. 130

    Description

    The head and neck, over life-sized, were carved to be let into a bust or statue, probably one representing the emperor draped as a Greek magistrate. In proportions of features and details of hairstyle, this portrait closely resembles portraits of Hadrian made in the city of Rome, and it could have been based on a plaster cast of a head of Hadrian shipped from Rome to Egypt. The technique of carving, however, is dry and linear, and little effort was expended on creating a realistic illusion of the texture of hair. Though this portrait from Egypt is a good likeness of Hadrian, it seems relatively schematic, and its expression is harsh compared with images from Rome itself.
    The condition, other than some cleaning of the surface patina, is excellent.

    Scientific Analysis:
    Harvard Lab No. HI227: Isotope ratios - delta13C +3.66 / delta18O -2.64,
    MFA laboratory: email from Richard Newman to John Herrmann: "The marble is dolomite (determined by Raman spectroscopy). Some gypsum was also detected (from a fill pr surface alteration?)."

    Attribution - Thasos 3 (Cape Vathy), Justification - Medium grained marble, dolomite.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height (max.) x length of face: 50 cm x 30 cm (19 11/16 x 11 13/16 in.)

    Medium

    Marble from the Greek island of Thasos

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1975.292

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Sarcophagus and lid with portraits of husband and wife

    Late 4th–early 3rd century B.C.

    Description

    The cover of the sarcophagus shows a man and woman lying nearly facing each other on a bed with pillows and a large sheet wrapped about them.The portrait of the man is of particular interest to the study of Etruscan (and Early Roman) portraiture, foreshadowing in many respects the Roman Republican portraiture which would, in considerable degree, devlop from the Etruscan form. The woman wears a double fillet or braids around her hair, a heart-shaped earring, and a long chiton with sleeves. It is difficult to tell what, if any, clothing the man was wearing, unless details of costume were added in paint. The pediments at each end of the lid have three ideal, female(?) heads in relief in rosettes.

    The front of the body shows a ceremony, interpreted by some as the couple's marriage and by others as their reunion in the afterlife. They clasp hands in the center, or (more precisely) he places his hand around her wrist, while he also holds a knotted staff in the left hand. Four attendants follow on either side. Those on the left comprise (from center to corner) a man with a tall staff, a lantern or jar suspended from it; a woman with a tray on her head and a pitcher in her lowered right hand; a woman with a large fan or flabellum and a situla in her lowered right hand; and a woman with a lyre and plectron. On the right appear a young man with a chair; another with a small stick or scepter; a third with a curved horn; and a woman with a wreath and double flutes.

    On the left end, two women, parasol over their heads, ride in a cart drawn by two mules driven by a male attendant. A winged spirit of death waves two snakes at them. On the right end, a bearded magistrate mounts a two-horse chariot, attended by a man with the pastoral staff or lituus.

    Since the man on the major front panel wears the Greek himation, it has been suggested that he is the heroized deceased, leading his wife to the underworld. If such be the case, she may have survived him to have her own separate procession on the left end, and the scene on the front thus may be taken as a symbolic "marriage" ceremony, the union with death and life in the underworld rather than merely in life on earth.

    The lid is broken across at the couple's legs and has been rejoined, with two small pieces missing. The body has cracks. There are minor chips and abrasions, but the general condition is excellent. The surfaces have a crusty brown patina.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height : 88 cm (34 5/8 in.); width: 73 cm ( 28 3/4 in.); length: 210 cm (82 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Volcanic tuff

    Classification

    Tomb equipment , Coffins, Sarcophagi

    Accession Number

    1975.799

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Sarcophagus and lid with husband and wife

    350–300 B.C.

    Description

    The top of the cover takes the form of a bed with pillows, and a man and his wife embrace under a large sheet. She wears a complex earring and he a bracelet of twisted strands. There is no costume visible.

    On the long side below the man is a frieze with four pairs of Greeks and Amazons in combat. A bead-and-reel molding appears above, and simple pilasters frame the scenes on the corners. The other side, the long panel below the woman, has only a plain fillet molding above, suggesting it was the back of the sarcophagus proper. The frieze features two pairs of horsemen and foot soldiers in combat, with a warrior in fighting pose on foot in the center.

    On the left end (facing the frieze with Greeks and Amazons), two lions bring down a bull. The bead-and-reel molding is seen above. On the right end, two griffins are tearing into a fallen horse.

    The condition is, generally speaking, excellent, with some traces of a dark brown deposit and an overall light brown to yellow patina.

    The sarcophagus is inscribed for Thanchvil Tarnai and her husband Larth Tetnies, son of Arnth Tetnies and Ramtha Vishnai.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width x length: 93.3 x 117.4 x 213.8 cm (36 3/4 x 46 1/4 x 84 3/16 in.)

    Medium

    Travertine

    Classification

    Tomb equipment , Models

    Accession Number

    86.145a-b

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Portrait of a Woman Wearing a Gold Chain

    1634

    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch, 1606–1669 Dutch

    Description

    As a young painter newly arrived in Amsterdam, Rembrandt rapidly gained fame for his stylish portraits of Dutch burghers. Paired images of couples were common in the Netherlands; this painting and its companion, MFA Object No. 93.1475, show an unidentified husband and wife. Rembrandt captures the viewer's attention with his vivid presentation of the woman's engaging personality and the dazzling rendering of her multi-layered lace collar and gold chain. Rembrandt's technique was already daring; he has scratched the highlights of his subject's curly hair into the wet paint with the butt end of his brush.

    Details

    Dimensions

    69.5 x 53 cm (27 3/8 x 20 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    93.1474

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Charles Dickens

    1842

    Francis Alexander, American, 1800–1880 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    112.08 x 91.44 cm (44 1/8 x 36 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    24.18

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Portrait of a Man Wearing a Black Hat

    1634

    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch, 1606–1669 Dutch

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    69.9 x 53 cm (27 1/2 x 20 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    93.1475

    Collections

    Europe

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  • The Artist's Mother, Head and Bust: Three Quarters Right

    1628

    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch, 1606–1669 Dutch

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Platemark: 6.6 x 6.4 cm (2 5/8 x 2 1/2 in.) Sheet: 6.9 x 6.6 cm (2 11/16 x 2 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Etching

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    25.1144

    Collections

    Europe , Prints and Drawings

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  • Cameo with Livia holding a bust of Augustus (?)

    A.D. 14–37

    Description

    Bust of Livia in the guise of Venus Genetrix, with closely clinging drapery slipping off her left shoulder. Beside her is a youthful male head, which must originally have belonged to a bust or full-length figure, alternately identified as a bust of the deified Augustus, or as one of her sons, Tiberius or Drusus I.

    The cameo has been set into a modern setting. The lower part of the gem is damaged, and a portion of the original has clearly been lost.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 3.1 x 3.8 x 1.6 cm (1 1/4 x 1 1/2 x 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Turquoise

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment , Cameos

    Accession Number

    99.109

    Collections

    Jewelry , The Ancient World

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  • Bocca Baciata (Lips That Have Been Kissed)

    1859

    Dante Gabriel Rossetti, English, 1828–1882 English

    Description

    Rossetti here depicts his mistress, Fanny Cornforth, gazing at the viewer or perhaps at her own reflection in a mirror. The sensual sitter represents an idealized beauty, while the artist's use of luxurious decorative elements invites sheer visual enjoyment. Inscribed on the back of this panel is a line from a sonnet by the fourteenth-century Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio: "Bocca baciate non perda ventura, anzi rinova come fa la luna" (The mouth that has been kissed loses not its freshness; still it renews itself even as does the moon).

    Details

    Dimensions

    32.1 x 27.0 cm (12 5/8 x 10 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1980.261

    Collections

    Europe

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  • John La Farge

    1891

    Robert Wilton Lockwood, American, 1861–1914 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    96.2 x 76.52 cm (37 7/8 x 30 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    09.208

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Self Portrait

    1866

    William Morris Hunt, American, 1824–1879 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    77.15 x 64.77 cm (30 3/8 x 25 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    97.63

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Relief of Nofer

    2540–2465 B.C.

    Description

    We may not know exactly what Nofer looked like, but we can be sure that he had a large aquiline nose. This aspect is featured prominently on the north doorjamb from his chapel as well as on the reserve head found at the bottom of the tomb's shaft. The scale with which Nofer is represented on the walls - three times bigger than other figures - and the fourteen different offices enumerated there demonstrate that he was a prominent official in Dynasty 4. Among his titles, both real and honorary, were overseer of the treasury, overseer of the king's regalia, overseer of the arsenal, secretary of all the secrets of the king, estate manager, and royal scribe.

    The exquisitely carved relief figure of Nofer on the doorjamb exhibits the traditional combination of profile and frontal views. Subtle modeling calls attention to the area under the eye and the bridge of the nose. Each individual curl of the wig is cut with precision. He wears a conventional kilt and holds a walking stick and baton of office as he faces out from inside the tomb toward the entrance. A row of scribes carrying the tools of their trade face into the tomb to meet him.

    George Reisner was not the first to enter Nofer's tomb in modern times when he excavated it in 1905. August Mariette, the first director of antiquities, found the tomb in 1857, and in the following year he presented the other (southern) doorjamb of the tomb chapel to the viceroy of Egypt, who, in turn, presented it to Prince Napoleon of France. From there it entered another French collection before it was purchased by the Louvre in 1868. Other relief-decorated blocks were plundered from the tomb prior to the MFA excavations and are currently in Rome, Copenhagen, and Birmingham (England).

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 95 x 109.5 cm, 362.9 kg (37 3/8 x 43 1/8 in., 800.05 lb.) Case (Painted wooden case with plex bonnet): 122.2 x 30.5 x 129.5 cm (48 1/8 x 12 x 51 in.) Case (Plex-bonnet): 130.2 x 152.7 x 21 cm (51 1/4 x 60 1/8 x 8 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Limestone

    Classification

    Architectural elements , Relief

    Accession Number

    07.1002

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Reserve head

    2551–2494 B.C.

    Description

    This striking head represents one of the rare instances in which Egyptian artists sculpted a partial figure. Slightly over life-size, it is noteworthy for its austere beauty and serene gaze. Although perhaps not a true portrait like that of Ankhhaf (p. 78), it nevertheless exhibits a number of distinctive traits. Because of its round face, pronounced cheekbones and full, sensuous lips, George Reisner called it a "Negroid princess." He found it at the bottom of a tomb shaft in the Western Cemetery at Giza, where robbers most likely tossed it after plundering the burial chamber. A second head with a much more elongated face and facial features was found beside it, and Reisner considered that to be her Egyptian husband. Unfortunately the tomb itself provides no clues as to the racial identity or sex of either head. However, a touch of red paint remaining on the ear of this head hints that the subject was male rather than female, because red is the traditional male skin color on sculptures. To further complicate matters, the tomb only contained space for a single burial, so exactly which head belonged there is not clear.

    The function of this piece also remains enigmatic. Just over thirty such heads have been found, mostly at Giza, and mostly datable to the brief period in Dynasty 4 spanning the reigns of Khufu and Khafre. Although all are approximately the same size, each is distinctive. All have been found either in the burial chamber or at the bottom of the shaft leading to it. In contrast, other types of Old Kingdom sculptures have most often been found in chapels above ground attached to tombs, where they could magically partake of food offerings. Upon excavating one of these heads at the beginning of the twentieth century, a German archaeologist postulated that its purpose was to replace the head of the deceased should anything happen to it. Since that time, these sculptures have been known as "reserve heads."

    Over the years others have suggested different functions for these heads. Several archaeologists believe that they served as models or molds for other sculptures. The fact that many, excepting the present example, show signs of deliberate mutilation, led another scholar to theorize that they served a magical function during the burial ceremonies but were ritually "killed" to prevent them from subsequently harming the deceased. Whatever their purpose, they were in vogue for a very brief period, until they were superseded by face and body coverings in plaster and then cartonnage, a material consisting of layers of linen stiffened with gesso.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 30 x 21 x 26 cm (11 13/16 x 8 1/4 x 10 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Limestone

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    14.719

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Funerary monument of Aththaia, daughter of Malchos

    A.D. 150–200

    Description

    An elaborate Palmyrene grave relief with a Greek inscription "Aththaia, daughter of Malchos, Happy One, Farewell." She wears a full tunic and a long himation (a cloak-like garment) which goes twice around her body and covers her head as a veil. Beneath this is a cloth headdress, an engraved diadem, and strings of jewels in her hair, which is looped back at the sides of her head to reveal pierced earlobes and elaborate pendant earrings. She also wears two necklaces, the outer one of gold chain with a sun-and-crescent pendant, two bracelets, three rings, and a large, circular brooch with three pendants hanging on her left breast. Her right hand is raised to her veil in a standard gesture for representations of women in Palmyrene funerary relief portraits; it may, as in Roman art, signal feminine modesty. Her left hand, supported by the sling of her himation, clasps a loop of fabric from her garment.

    Although the Greek inscription betrays her Hellenic affinities, her face and the details of carving are thoroughly Eastern. The incised relief line of the eyebrows and the rubbery folds of the neck foreshadow Graeco-Buddhist sculpture in northern and northwestern India, and central Asia. The carving of the chiton (tunic) and himation is expertly handled, but the number of tight, zigzag folds also foreshadows Late Antique and Byzantine art.

    The preservation is excellent, the surfaces being almost totally free of deterioration or deposit.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 55 cm (21 5/8 in.); width: 42 cm (16 9/16 in.)

    Medium

    Limestone

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    22.659

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Bust of a man

    about 50 B.C.

    Description

    This life-size portrait of a man was perhaps based on a death-mask, which accounts for the individualized features of a mature man. It was skillfully retouched by the artist, who added clay and used modeling instruments- most obviously in the hair and the pupils of the eyes. It may have been a study for a marble or bronze bust.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 35.7 (14 1/16) in.); depth: 18 cm (7 1/16 in.)

    Medium

    Terracotta

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    01.8008

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Portrait of a youth (Elagabalus?)

    A.D. 218–224

    Description

    This may be an early portrait bust of Emperor Elagabalus (A.D. 218-222), who became emperor at the age of fifteen. He wears a banded toga with a board-like fold running across the chest, which is sometimes termed a toga contabulata in modern scholarship. This style of toga first appears in the second century A.D. and became the most common form of the toga in the third and fourth centuries despite the difficulty of producing and maintaining the band (see Tertullian, De Pallio 5).

    Most of the nose is missing, and the break in right shoulder goes through to back and toward the left shoulder. There is a second break closer to end of the right shoulder; both breaks have been repaired. The surface still retains polish in some areas, and there are some stains and root marks on the face, and reddish spots on the right chest and in the folds over the right arm.

    Scientific Analysis:

    University of South Florida Lab No. 8439: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.6 / delta18O -2.7.

    Attribution - Göktepe 3-4, Turkey (near Aphrodisias). Justification - C and O isotopes, fine grain, pure white, considerable translucence

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 71 cm (27 15/16 in.)

    Medium

    Marble from Göktepe, Turkey (near Aphrodisias)

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1977.337

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Relief of Hemiunu

    2551–2528 B.C.

    Description

    Limestone fragment from tomb of Hemiunu: face and hieroglyphs in relief.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 12.1 x 39.5 x 7cm (4 3/4 x 15 9/16 x 2 3/4in.)

    Medium

    Limestone

    Classification

    Architectural elements , Relief

    Accession Number

    27.296

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Head of Nectanebo II

    362–343 B.C.

    Description

    This superb portrait of Egypt’s last native pharaoh is the product of three thousand years’ expertise in carving hard stone. The volumes of his helmet-shaped crown — the Blue Crown, or khepresh, are sleek and streamlined, almost aerodynamic. The artist reveled in the mottled texture of the stone, and polished it to a glistening sheen in a painstaking process reserved for the most important statues.

    Nectanebo II was known as the favorite of the gods, renowned for his piety, devotion to the sacred animal cults, lavish gifts of land, restoration of cult statues, and founding of new temples. Thirty sites from the Delta to Elephantine and as far west as Siwa attest to his extraordinary building activity: fourteen completely new structures plus extensions to existing sanctuaries and gifts of temple furniture. Such expenditures would have been remarkable at any time but were particularly so when the country was under constant threat of invasion from the Persians.

    In 343 B.C. Nectanebo II was defeated by the Persians. Nothing is known of his death. Legend has it that he escaped to Macedonia. A skilled magician, he appeared to Queen Olympias in her bedchamber disguised as her husband Philip, and sired the future Alexander the Great. It is certain that he was honored under the Ptolemies, for whom he provided an ideal role model as pharaoh. A cult that worshipped Nectanebo II as a divine falcon, the epitome of kingship, persisted at least until the reign of Ptolemy IV.

    Details

    Dimensions

    height x width x depth 31 x 24.5 x 24 cm (11 13/16 x 9 5/8 x 9 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Granodiorite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    2000.637

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Augustus

    1st or 2nd century A.D.

    Description

    A marble bust with 18th century restorations; probably inserted into a full length draped statue. It perhaps was created for a private villa at Ariccia, near Rome, where it was found. This is a posthumous portrait of Augustus with many features that suggest that it dates to the late 30s or 40s A.D., although the rendering of the hair general expression are more suggestive of a second century date. The portrait is carved out of Lychnites marble from the Greek island of Paros, one of the most prestigious and expensive marbles in antiquity.

    This portrait of the Emperor Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14) shows curly locks of hair, no wrinkles, softened bone structure; these features indicate is an idealized image influenced by Greek statues of athletes and athletic gods.

    Scientific Analysis:

    University of South Florida Lab No. 8421: Isotope ratios - delta13C +4.8/ delta18O -3.7,

    Attribution - Paros 1, Marathi (Lychnites quarry). Justification - C and O isotopes, medium grain

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 43.3 cm (17 1/16 in.); length (of face): 20 cm (7 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Marble from the Greek island of Paros

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    99.344

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • George Washington

    1810

    Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    66.04 x 54.93 cm (26 x 21 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    29.788

    Collections

    Americas

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  • George Washington

    after 1805

    Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    66.67 x 53.97 cm (26 1/4 x 21 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    42.543

    Collections

    Americas

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  • George Washington

    after 1824

    Rembrandt Peale, American, 1778–1860 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    73.02 x 60.01 cm (28 3/4 x 23 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    30.474

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Paul Revere

    1768

    John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815 American

    Description

    Paul Revere is Copley’s only finished portrait of an artisan dressed in shirtsleeves and shown at work. Revere is shown half-length, seated behind a highly polished table, and casually attired. He cradles his chin in his right hand and regards the viewer as if he has just looked up from the teapot in his left hand; the pot is finished but remains undecorated, and the engraving tools at Revere’s elbow attest to the work yet to come. When Copley painted Revere’s portrait, his sitter was an accomplished, well-established silversmith and master of the rococo style, both in engraving and in three-dimensional hollowware such as teapots [35.1775]. He completed the Sons of Liberty Bowl [49.45], now considered one of the United States’ most cherished historical treasures, the same year Copley captured his likeness.
    Copley’s image of Revere is unprecedented not only in his own oeuvre but also in American colonial painting. Though Copley had produced a few portraits of craftsmen, his usual patrons were clergymen and merchants and their wives. He first depicted an artisan with the attributes of his trade in one of his earliest portraits, Peter Pelham (?) (private collection), dated about 1754. Like Revere, the subject is seated at a table strewn with tools, but this craftsman wears a jacket, stock, and patterned waistcoat. The more formal attire makes the sitter appear posed rather than caught in the middle of his work. Peter Pelham (?) bears striking similarities to the mezzotint John TheophilusDesaguliers [M20149] by Copley’s stepfather, Peter Pelham. [1]Copley may have referred to Pelham’s mezzotint and also to his own Peter Pelham (?) for the composition, pose, and other details of Paul Revere. Both mezzotint and early portrait, like Paul Revere, offer half-length views of figures seated behind tables with tools; each of these subjects, like Revere, is turned slightly to the side, right arm leaning on a table, left hand holding an object—a magnifying glass in the case of Desaguliers and an engraving tool and burin in the case of the sitter presumed to be Pelham—and each man looks straight out at the viewer. The print is closer to Paul Revere in some respects, however. The table in the mezzotint, like Revere’s table, is aligned parallel to the picture plane and not at a slightly awkward angle as in Peter Pelham (?); the complicated gathers of Revere’s sleeve seem to be derived directly from those of Desaguliers’s sleeve; and both Desaguliers’s magnifying glass and Revere’s teapot complement the sitters’ faces and reflect light. In conceiving of Paul Revere, Copley may also have been inspired by the European tradition of depicting artists and craftsmen with their tools and the objects they create as attributes or by Northern Renaissance portrayals of jewelers, goldsmiths, and bankers, images he would have known through prints.

    The wigless Revere wears a plain white linen shirt with no cravat and only a hint of a frill on the right sleeve. The shirt is open, revealing an undershirt or possibly an untied stock beneath. His blue-green waistcoat, made of wool or matte silk, is likewise unfastened; two gold buttons are visible below Revere’s right hand. The open shirt and the waistcoat worn without a jacket are associated with work clothes. However, other aspects of his costume, such as its cleanliness and the gold buttons (possibly used here, along with the teapot, to advertise Revere’s products), do not accurately reflect the garments Revere actually wore to ply his trade. Moreover, the polished table is not the craftsman’s workbench. Thus, in his portrait of Revere, Copley presented an idealized image of the artisan at work.

    Though Paul Revere is now one of the most celebrated of American portraits, the circumstances of its execution are uncertain. It is known that Copley had met Revere by 1763, when the painter ordered a gold bracelet from the smith, and it is recorded in Revere’s account book (The Revere Waste and Memoranda Book, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston) that Copley purchased frames and cases for his miniatures between 1763 and 1767. However, the occasion for the commission of this portrait and the identification of the client who paid for it remain mysteries. The date inscribed on the painting—1768—enhances the iconographic significance of the teapot, both as an aesthetic and a political symbol. Teapots were among the most complex objects Revere made; they represented his craft in its highest form. According to Revere’s account book, he made a total of nine teapots from 1762 to 1773. Of those nine, six were made between 1762 and 1765, one in 1768, and the other two in 1773. Revere’s production of teapots had declined by 1768 in response to the Townshend Acts, which imposed duties on a variety of imported goods including tea. The teapot, then, was a provocative attribute for Revere, especially given his radical Whig politics.

    Unlike Copley’s portraits of Samuel Adams [L-R 30.76c] and John Hancock [L-R 30.76d], which were displayed in Faneuil Hall, Boston, and were translated into prints, Paul Revere did not become a public image during the Revolution or in its aftermath. The Copley portrait remained in the Revere family after the sitter’s death in 1818, apparently relegated to an attic. According to family tradition, Revere’s daughter Harriet so disliked the informality of the portrait that she had her nephew, Frederick Ballestier Revere, an amateur artist, make a copy using only the face from the original; he replaced the shirtsleeves with a red uniform and a gorget of crossed cannon, a testament to Paul Revere’s military service (Morristown National Historical Park, New Jersey).

    The Revere family’s interest in the Copley portrait seems to have revived at about the time Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” in 1861, for it was reported that the painting had been restored by 1875. The portrait was not publicly displayed until 1928, when it was first loaned to the MFA; Revere’s great-grandsons gave the painting to the Museum in 1930. The current popularity of the portrait seems to have begun with the publication of Esther Forbes’s 1942 Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Paul Revere, which used the Copley portrait as the frontispiece. [2]

    Notes
    1. See Trevor J. Fairbrother, “John Singleton Copley’s Use of British Mezzotints for his American Portraits: A Reappraisal Prompted by New Discoveries,”Arts Magazine 55 (March 1981): 122–30.
    2. Esther Forbes, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948).

    This text was adapted and expanded by Karen E. Quinn from her own entry in John Singleton Copley in America, by Carrie Rebora et al., exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1995).

    Details

    Dimensions

    89.22 x 72.39 cm (35 1/8 x 28 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    30.781

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    Americas

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  • Alexander Hamilton

    1806

    John Trumbull, American, 1756–1843 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    77.79 x 62.55 cm (30 5/8 x 24 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    94.167

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Portrait of a Young Woman

    about 1797

    Marie Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, French, 1755–1842 French

    Description

    Vigée-Le Brun achieved great fame for her portraits of the French aristocracy. Because women were not allowed to attend the official art schools, Vigée-Le Brun was primarily self-taught. She nevertheless gained admission to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture through the support of her chief patron, the queen Marie Antoinette. When the French Revolution began in 1789, Vigée-Le Brun fled France and spent thirteen years in exile, painting the nobility of Naples, Austria, Poland, Russia, and Switzerland. Some scholars think that the charming young woman in this portrait may be Countess Irina Ivanovna Worontzov, a Russian aristocrat who posed for the painter.

    Details

    Dimensions

    82.2 x 70.5 cm (32 3/8 x 27 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.3256

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Abraham Lincoln

    1865

    William Morris Hunt, American, 1824–1879 American

    Description

    This study for a portrait of Lincoln, destroyed in the Boston fire of 1872, was painted soon after Lincoln's assassination by John Wilkes Booth. The president's tragic death came less than a week after the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox made Union success seem assured. This study shows Lincoln with his head downcast, a martyr to the victory he did not live to see.

    Details

    Dimensions

    23.49 x 13.33 cm (9 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    19.9

    Collections

    Americas

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  • The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit

    1882

    John Singer Sargent, American, 1856–1925 American

    Description

    The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit was painted in Paris in the autumn of 1882, one of a number of portraits of members of the American expatriate community that Sargent made in the French capital in the late 1870s and early 1880s. While the exact circumstances of this commission remain unknown, Sargent was a friend of the girls’ parents, Edward Darley Boit and Mary Louisa Cushing Boit [63.268]. Ned Boit was from Boston, a Harvard-trained lawyer who turned away from his profession in order to pursue a career as a painter [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=Edward%20Darley%20Boit]. His wife Mary Louisa, called Isa, was a vivacious and social woman who preferred Europe to America; her inheritance, a legacy of Boston’s China Trade, allowed the family to live abroad. They kept elegant quarters on the avenue de Friedland in the eighth arrondissement, a luxurious neighborhood much preferred by wealthy Americans. The foyer of their apartment served as the setting for Sargent’s portrait, a shadowy space in which the painter arranged the Boits’ four daughters: Mary Louisa (eight years old when Sargent painted her), Florence (age fourteen), Jane (twelve), and Julia (four).
    While Ned and Isa may have initially approached Sargent to make a traditional portrait, they supported his ambition to create something more unusual, a painting that is half a portrait and half an interior scene. Each of the girls is presented individually, but the features of two are obscured, an attribute antithetical to conventional portraiture and one that, combined with the lack of connection between the girls, stymied critics when the painting was first displayed. Its unusual format was inspired by the art of both the past and the present, a characteristic approach that Sargent employed to make paintings that seemed simultaneously traditional and modern. The historical precedent for the Boit portrait can be found in the work of the seventeenth-century Spanish master Diego Velázquez, an artist greatly admired in nineteenth-century France. Sargent had traveled to Madrid in 1879 to make copies after Velázquez at the MuseoNacional del Prado; among the paintings he studied was Las Meninas (about 1656), a large and famous portrait of the young Spanish infanta with her maids in a great shadowed room. Sargent adapted Velázquez’s mysterious space, his dark subdued palette, and the manner in which his self-possessed princess directly confronts the viewer. At the same time, Sargent must have been thinking of the unusual portraits and oddly centrifugal compositions of his French contemporary Edgar Degas. The Daughters of Edward DarleyBoit shares some of Degas’s strategies: the asymmetrical composition with an almost empty center, the sense of disconnection between family members, and a feeling of modern life interrupted.

    Sargent placed the Boit girls in an indeterminate space—the entrance hall, neither entirely public nor entirely private—that is brightly lit in the foreground but recedes into a vaguely defined drawing room half-lit with mirrors and reflections. The two tall Japanese vases [1997.211], made in Arita in the late nineteenth century specifically for export to the West, were prized family possessions; their unusual size in relation to the girls makes the interior seem strange and magical. The sisters are dressed almost alike, in the sort of casual clothes they would have worn in the schoolroom or at play. Their white pinafores gave Sargent an opportunity to demonstrate his mastery at painting white in different conditions of light. Only the youngest girl, Julia, engages the viewer, while the older girls recede progressively into the shadows, becoming increasingly indistinct.

    Sargent titled the painting Portraits of Children and displayed it in December 1882 in an exhibition at the gallery of the French dealer Georges Petit, who specialized in works by an international group of artists who were more modern than many of the painters who showed at the Salon, but less innovative than the Impressionists. The picture received generally good reviews, and Sargent decided to display it again the following spring, this time at the Salon, the annual state-run exhibition in Paris that was an important venue for artists seeking to build their reputations. While some critics praised Sargent’s technical abilities, most found the composition troubling for its unconventional approach to portraiture. One unidentified writer even described it as “four corners and a void.” While some have interpreted Sargent’s strategy as a poignant comment on the fickle nature of childhood and adolescence, writer Henry James, a friend of both the Boits and Sargent, described the picture as a “happy play-world of a family of charming children.”[1] With this painting, Sargent masterfully transcended portraiture, providing a continuously evocative meditation on openness and enigma, public and private, light and shadow.

    Notes
    1. Henry James, “John S. Sargent,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 75 (October 1887), 688.

    For more information about this painting, see Erica E. Hirshler, Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/780878467426.html] (Boston: MFA Publications, 2009).

    Erica E. Hirshler

    Details

    Dimensions

    221.93 x 222.57 cm (87 3/8 x 87 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    19.124

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    Americas

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  • Infanta Maria Theresa

    1653

    Workshop of Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, Spanish,...

    Description

    This painting is probably one of three portraits sent to potential suitors of Maria Theresa, the daughter of Spain's King Philip IV and ultimately the wife of Louis XIV of France. In portraying the royal family, Velázquez generally painted a bust-length portrait from life, which he and his assistants would use as a model in creating full-length versions. The freshness of the colors and brushwork in this painting stress the desirability of the fifteen-year-old princess, and suggest that Velázquez was closely associated with its production.

    Details

    Dimensions

    128.6 x 100.6 cm (50 5/8 x 39 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    21.2593

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Martha Dana (later Mrs. William Mercer)

    1899

    Anders Leonard Zorn, Swedish, 1860–1920 Swedish

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    68.6 x 50.8 cm (27 x 20 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    28.513

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Paul Revere

    1813

    Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    71.75 x 57.15 cm (28 1/4 x 22 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    30.782

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Mrs. Paul Revere (Rachel Walker)

    1813

    Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    71.75 x 56.83 cm (28 1/4 x 22 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    30.783

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    Americas

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  • Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis)

    about 1763

    John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815 American

    Description

    When Copley painted Mercy Otis Warren (1728–1814), at the age of about thirty-six or thirty-seven, she was a Plymouth, Massachusetts, housewife and mother of three sons (two more were to be born between 1764 and 1766); she would later make her name as one of the first chroniclers of the American Revolution and a dedicated campaigner for the patriot cause. Mercy’s upbringing was unusual for a woman in the colonies, for she was well educated—her parents, James and Mary Alleyne Otis (whose portraits, now in the Wichita Art Museum, Kansas, Copley had painted about 1760), had allowed her to attend her older brother’s lessons with a tutor as he prepared for Harvard. She had an unconventional marriage too: her husband, James Warren, a graduate of Harvard, a prosperous merchant and farmer, and an ardent patriot, also encouraged her intellectual pursuits.

    Mercy Otis Warren began writing poetry in about 1759, five years after her marriage, but it was not until 1772 and the pseudonymous publication of her satiric drama The Adulateur in the Massachusetts Spy that her work reached the public. Over the next several decades she would pen a series of plays and parodies mocking Governor Thomas Hutchinson and other Loyalists, essays on political issues, and a volume of poems and dramas written in defense of human liberty and dedicated to George Washington. In 1805 she published her three-volume History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, which she had begun in the late 1770s and which, unlike most of her earlier efforts, appeared under her own name.

    In Copley’s image, Mercy Warren does not allude to her budding literary ambitions but rather enacts prescribed feminine roles. Her portrait offers a graceful complement to that of her husband [31.211]. Their heads are turned toward each other, and she is slightly lower in the picture plane than he. Her body is in profile, and she is dressed in a most fashionable blue satin sacque dress trimmed with ruched silk and silver braid, with a lace stole and lace ruffles at her sleeve. Both the Warrens are portrayed as cultivators: he, the gentleman farmer, stands foursquare on his property; she fingers her nasturtium vines, plants that were valued as food and for their bright, colorful blossoms.

    Copley first portrayed Mercy Otis Warren with roses—their ghosts can still be seen beneath the green nasturtium leaves—flowers that were more appropriate for cutting and arranging than nasturtiums. X-rays of the portrait suggest the possibility that Mrs. Warren originally stood before a masonry wall. The revisions in the setting allied Warren more directly with the world of nature; the flowers she tends, but does not cut, are a trope for her role within the family as nurturer of children. Like the cultivation of flowers, the training of children was the responsibility of women. Flowers were emblems of fertility—appropriate to Mercy Warren, who gave birth to sons both the year before and the year after she sat for Copley—but they were also tokens of the fragility of life and may have been meant to recall Warren’s beloved sister Mary (Mrs. John Gray, about 1763, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston), who died the year this portrait was painted. Nasturtiums were also symbolic of patriotism and thus a prophetic choice of flower for this sitter.

    Mercy Warren’s dress appears in two other portraits by Copley: Mrs. Benjamin Pickman (Mary Toppan) (1763, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut) and Mrs. Daniel Sargent (Mary Turner) (1763, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco). Mrs. Pickman and Mrs. Sargent were much younger than Mercy Warren, and were painted at the time of their marriages. Art historian Margaretta Lovell has suggested that the expensive blue dress belonged to the Warrens and that they loaned the dress to Mrs. Pickman and Mrs. Sargent for the purpose of wearing it for their portraits, augmenting it with different trimmings but emphasizing family friendships and alliances. [1]The gown is cut low, and in the portraits of both young sitters, the pale skin of their chests is exposed in advertisement of their beauty. Mercy Warren’s costume, however, has been augmented with a lace stole, a modest touch appropriate to her age and status as matron. She looks directly at the viewer; the levelness of her gaze and the determined set of her mouth suggest (at least to the present-day observer with the luxury of hindsight) the side of her character that will within a decade venture forth from the realm of such acceptable feminine pursuits as gardening and child rearing into the masculine sphere of dramaturgy, political satire, and historical analysis.

    Notes
    1. Margaretta M. Lovell, “Mrs. Sargent, Mr. Copley, and the Empirical Eye,” Winterthur Portfolio 33, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 34.

    This text was adapted and expanded by Janet L. Comey from Carol Troyen’s entry in John Singleton Copley in America, by Carrie Rebora et al., exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1995).

    Details

    Dimensions

    126.05 x 100.33 cm (49 5/8 x 39 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    31.212

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  • Edith, Lady Playfair (Edith Russell)

    1884

    John Singer Sargent, American, 1856–1925 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    152.08 x 98.42 cm (59 7/8 x 38 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    33.530

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    Americas

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  • Henry W. Longfellow

    Julia Margaret Cameron, English, 1815–1879 English

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Image/Sheet: 36.8 x 26.8 cm (14 1/2 x 10 9/16 in.) Mount: 55.9 x 45.7 cm (22 x 18 in.)

    Medium

    Photograph, carbon print (printed later)

    Classification

    Photographs

    Accession Number

    42.332

    Collections

    Europe , Photography

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  • Victorine Meurent

    about 1862

    Edouard Manet, French, 1832–1883 French

    Description

    Victorine Meurent was Manet's favorite model in the 1860s, posing for Street Singer, on view in this gallery, as well as for such other renowned works as Olympia and Luncheon on the Grass (both now in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris). This portrait is thought to be Manet's first painting of Victorine.

    Details

    Dimensions

    42.9 x 43.8 cm (16 7/8 x 17 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    46.846

    Collections

    Europe

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  • The Bone Player

    1856

    William Sidney Mount, American, 1807–1868 American

    Description

    William Sidney Mount’s The Bone Player combines elements of portraiture and genre painting, both fields for which he was well known. Born on Long Island, Mount apprenticed with his brother, a portrait and sign painter, and then studied at the National Academy of Design in New York; by 1856 he was well established as one of America’s leading artists. Mount painted The Bone Player after receiving a commission from the printers Goupil and Company for two pictures of African American musicians, to be lithographed for the European market. These became the last in a series of five life-size likenesses of musicians that Mount executed between 1849 and 1856.
    Scholars have differed over whether this image, painted just five years before the Civil War when tensions over slavery were high, is a typical nineteenth-century stereotyped depiction of an African American or a sensitive portrait of an individual. On the one hand, Mount titled the picture The Bone Player, indicating that it was his sitter’s musical skill, rather than his individual identity, that was the painting’s subject. The bones [1989.132a-d]—bars of ivory, wood, or bone clicked together—were an instrument associated with African American minstrels, a type recognizable to American and European audiences. Popular theories of evolution considered African Americans more intuitive than Caucasians and therefore more in touch with their natural musical talents. Mount knew that pictures of such African American types would sell: they appealed to Europeans because of their exoticism and to Americans because they were considered distinctly American. Moreover, Mount was not an abolitionist and so unlikely to challenge African American stereotypes.

    On the other hand, Mount carefully delineated his subject’s distinctive physical characteristics, such as his high cheekbones, white teeth, and neat mustache, treating him as an individual and not a type. Unlike the depictions of African Americans in contemporary genre painting, which often employed caricature, this sitter is life-size, making the viewer relate to him as a fellow human being. Mount himself played the violin and loved music. His personal interest in the subject may explain his portraits of musicians, the first of which depicts a Caucasian subject and thus does not involve African American stereotypes.

    In the end, the most convincing conclusion about this painting is that both interpretations have merit. Mount was walking a fine line between stereotyping and individualism, between genre painting and portraiture. His equivocation makes sense, for he executed the work when debate over slavery was intense. Whatever his political affiliations, Mount was primarily a painter trying to support himself through his art. In The Bone Player, he created a work that could be interpreted in different ways and thus appeal to buyers in both the North and the South, as well as abroad. Yet despite its ambiguity, the painting is still unprecedented in the humanity it affords its African American subject.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    91.76 x 73.98 cm (36 1/8 x 29 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.461

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    Americas

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  • Martha Pickman Rogers in Her Wedding Gown

    mid-19th century

    Southworth and Hawes, American, 1843–62 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Image (rounded corners): 13.3 x 10.0 cm (5 1/4 x 3 15/16 in.) Plate: 16.4 x 13.4 cm (6 7/16 x 5 1/4 in.) Closed case: 18.1 x 15.0 x 2.3 cm (7 1/8 x 5 7/8 x 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Photograph, daguerreotype

    Classification

    Photographs

    Accession Number

    64.1910

    Collections

    Americas , Photography

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  • Street Singer

    about 1862

    Edouard Manet, French, 1832–1883 French

    Description

    Manet was inspired by the sight of a woman with a guitar emerging from a sleazy café. She refused to pose for the picture, so Manet employed his favorite model of the 1860s, Victorine Meurent. The style and subject matter seemed crude to academic critics when the painting was exhibited in 1863. But Manet's friend, the novelist and critic Emile Zola, admired its formal beauties and its apparent confrontation with real life.

    Details

    Dimensions

    171.1 x 105.8 cm (67 3/8 x 41 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    66.304

    Collections

    Europe

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  • A Boy with a Flying Squirrel (Henry Pelham)

    1765

    John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815 American

    Description

    John Singleton Copley grew up in Boston before formal artistic training was available anywhere in this country. Largely self-taught, by the mid-1760s he was the most sought-after portraitist in New England. He aspired, however, to more than provincial success and wanted to know how his work would be gauged by sophisticated English standards. To find out, in 1765 he painted a portrait of his stepbrother, Henry Pelham, not as a commission but rather for exhibition in London.
    A Boy with a Flying Squirrel (Henry Pelham) was calculated to demonstrate everything that Copley could do. It differed markedly from his commissioned portraits in its subtly complex composition. Here, Copley chose to paint his sitter in profile rather than using a typical frontal likeness and has placed him behind a table that seemingly juts out into the viewer’s space. Pelham dreamily gazes upward with parted lips, as if in a reverie. Copley masterfully unified the composition with his use of color: the rich reds of the drapery and the mahogany table are picked up in the boy’s ruby lips and the skin tones of his face, as well as in the pink collar. Most brilliant of all, perhaps, is Copley’s ability to depict a variety of textures—for example, the boy’s skin and the soft fur of the squirrel, the highly polished table, and the reflections of the glass of water.

    Copley sent A Boy with a Flying Squirrel to London for exhibition in 1766. It garnered much praise, perhaps most importantly from Sir Joshua Reynolds, one of the leading English artists, who called the painting, “a very wonderfull Performance.” Reynolds’s words were both encouraging and condescending: he wrote that Copley could be “one of the first Painters in the World,” but he tempered his enthusiasm by adding that, to ensure such a result, Copley must receive proper training by studying abroad before his “Manner and Taste were corrupted or fixed by working in [his] little way at Boston.”[1]Copley was encouraged by the positive response the painting received, and he aspired to travel to Europe for proper training. However, he remained in Boston until 1774, when he finally left the colonies for good.

    Notes
    1.Captain R. G. Bruce to Copley, August 4, 1766, in Letters and Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham, 1739–1776, ed. Guernsey Jones (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1914), 41.

    This text was adapted from Elliot BostwickDavis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    77.15 x 63.82 cm (30 3/8 x 25 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1978.297

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    Americas

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  • James Warren

    1761–63

    John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815 American

    Description

    When Copley painted James Warren (1726-1808), his sitter had not yet reached the height of his fame. A graduate of Harvard, a prosperous merchant and farmer, and an ardent patriot, Warren eventually became active in politics, serving in the Massachusetts General Court from 1766 to 1778, presiding over the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, and acting as Paymaster General of the Continental Army while it was in Cambridge and Boston. From 1777 to 1782 he served on the Navy Board. In 1787 he was elected speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. At the time he sat for Copley, however, James Warren was active on a more local stage, operating his farm and conducting his mercantile business as well as fulfilling the duties of a sheriff of Plymouth County, south of Boston.
    Warren’s likeness is a pendant to Copley’s portrait of his wife, Mercy Otis Warren (31.212), also painted before she made her name as a dedicated campaigner for the patriot cause and one of the first chroniclers of the American Revolution. The two canvases are a graceful complement to one another. The sitters’ heads are turned toward each other. Their settings are not identical or contiguous, but they do contain parallels in their emphasis on the natural world. James Warren is very much the country squire, walking stick in hand, ruddy complexion suggesting time spent out of doors overseeing his estate. The carefully demarcated architecture behind him suggests lands measured, cultivated, and controlled. He wears a bob wig and a gray coat over a long black waistcoat―a sober costume but by no means a poor man’s garb.
    After 1788, Warren retired from active politics, although he did serve on the governor’s council from 1792 to 1794. He withdrew to his Plymouth farm to concentrate on scientific farming. He promoted and supported his wife’s literary ambitions, and through her writing Mercy Warren eventually became more famous than her husband. James might not have taken offense at his wife’s renown eclipsing his own. In 1775, he had written to John Adams, “I am content to move in a small sphere. I expect no distinction but that of an honest man who has exerted every nerve.”[i]

    [i]Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 19, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936, p. 478.

    Details

    Dimensions

    127 x 101.92 cm (50 x 40 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    31.211

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    Americas

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  • John Adams

    about 1830

    Horatio Greenough, American, 1805–1852 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall (Marble): 29.2 x 16.8 x 15.2 cm (11 1/2 x 6 5/8 x 6 in.) Overall (including socle 15 1/2"): 10.2 x 15.6 cm (4 x 6 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Marble

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    92.2856a-b

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    Americas

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  • John Quincy Adams

    1828

    Horatio Greenough, American, 1805–1852 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    32.07 x 19.05 x 15.24 cm (12 5/8 x 7 1/2 x 6 in.)

    Medium

    Marble

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    92.2857a-b

    Collections

    Americas

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  • John Quincy Adams

    1796

    John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815 American

    Description

    In 1797, Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams (who had recently been inaugurated as the second president of the United States), quite unexpectedly received a shipping case. It contained this portrait of her twenty-eight-year-old son by John Singleton Copley, which Mrs. Susanna Copley had asked her husband to paint as a gift for her old friend. Abigail was delighted, and she wrote to John Quincy Adams on June 23, 1797, “It is allowed to be as fine a portrait as ever was taken, and what renders it peculiarly valuable to me is the expression, the animation, the true Character which gives it so pleasing a likeness . . . It is most elegantly Framed, and is painted in a masterly manner. No present could have been more acceptable.” [1]John and Abigail Adams had visited London in the 1780s and had become friends with the artist and his wife, and Copley had painted a full-length portrait of John Adams in 1783 (Harvard University Portrait Collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts). Copley had also painted a likeness of Abigail Adams, daughter of John and Abigail Adams, probably at about the same time, which was subsequently destroyed by fire.
    John Quincy Adams responded to his mother in a letter dated July 29, 1797, enlightening her on the circumstances under which his portrait had been painted:
    [Block quote]
    The history of the Portrait which you received last March was this. While I was here, the last time, Mr. Copley told me that Mrs. Copley had long been wishing to send you some token of her remembrance and regard, and thinking that a likeness of your Son, would answer the purpose, requested me to sit to him; which I did accordingly and he produced a very excellent picture, as you see. I had it framed in a manner which might correspond to the merit of the painting, and after I left this Country it was sent out by Mr. Copley. . . . It is therefore to the delicate politeness of Mr. and Mrs. Copley, that we are indebted for a present so flattering to me, and in your maternal kindness so acceptable to you. They are well, with all their family and continue to remember you with affection. [2]
    [/Block quote]

    John Quincy Adams was serving as the United States Minister to the Netherlands in 1796 when he sat for Copley, having been appointed by President George Washington in 1794. He was resident in London for several months in 1795 and 1796 to conduct negotiations concerning the ratification of the Jay Treaty, which resolved many issues remaining from the American Revolution. Even though Adams was a relatively young man, he had been chosen for these important positions because of his extraordinary education and upbringing. Since he had often accompanied his father when he was sent to Europe on government business, the younger Adams had traveled to France, Spain, the Low Countries, England, the German States, Russia, and Sweden by the time he was seventeen. Often John Adams’s business required lengthy stays, and John Quincy Adams had therefore been enrolled in schools in Paris and Amsterdam. Back in the United States in 1786, Adams entered Harvard College, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated the following year. Subsequently he studied law in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and then began to practice law in Boston.

    Adams recorded seven sittings for his portrait from February to April 1796. Two of the notations provide an elucidating glimpse into the experience of posing for Copley. On March 4 he wrote: “At Mr. Copley’s all the morning sitting for my picture. Conversation with him political, metaphysical, and critical. His opinions not accurate, but well meaning.” On March 28: “At Mr. Copley’s all morning, sitting again for my picture. Stayed there too long gazing at his Charles [Charles I Demanding in the House of Commons the Five Impeached Members, 1782–95, City of Boston, in the custody of the Boston Public Library], and at a portrait of the three youngest princesses [The Three Youngest Daughters of King George III, 1785, Royal Collection, United Kingdom], a finely finished thing.” [3]

    In a stylish oval format, the portrait shows a rather debonair John Quincy Adams with powdered hair, dressed in a black frock coat with a white stock and a glimpse of a pink waistcoat. He is set against a red curtain and a crepuscular landscape. Copley carefully delineated Adams’s features but painted the costume and background with dashing and loose brushwork. Art historian James Flexner found the likeness “more handsome than interesting” and commented on the painterly style of the background: “Copley sketched in, very rapidly, a little landscape about a foot square. Sky, hill, and meadow are not drawn but indicated with sweeps of color. The autumn tree is a squiggle of green . . . Should we frame this landscape for itself, it would seem to be a mid-nineteenth-century work, so completely is form subordinated to color.” [4]John Quincy Adams demonstrates Copley’s ability to adjust his technique to suit the current taste. In London he had adopted a loose, Romantic style, a significant change from the more detailed, linear aspect of the paintings he completed in America.

    Shortly after the portrait was completed, Adams became engaged to Louisa Catherine Johnson in London. He went on to a brilliant political career, serving in the United States Senate, as Minister to Russia, as Minister to England, and as Secretary of State. In 1825 he was elected the sixth president of the United States, and after he lost his bid for re-election, he represented Plymouth, Massachusetts, in Congress for the rest of his life. Adams also went on to have his portrait painted by many of the leading artists of his day; in all he sat for at least sixty likenesses. Of all these portraits, Adams decided that “Copley’s Portrait of 1796, Stuart’s head of 1825, and Durand’s of 1836 . . . are the only ones worthy of being preserved, with the Busts by Persico, Greenough [92.2857a-b] and Powers.”[5]

    Notes
    1. Andrew Oliver, Portraits of John Quincy Adams and His Wife (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1970), 38.
    2. Oliver, Portraits, 40.
    3. Adams quoted in Emily Ballew Neff, John Singleton Copley in England, exh. cat. (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; London: Merrell Holberton, 1995), 172.
    4. James Thomas Flexner, The Light of Distant Skies, 1760–1835 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954; New York: Dover, 1969), 55.
    5. Oliver, Portraits, 2.

    Janet L. Comey

    Details

    Dimensions

    76.52 x 63.5 cm (30 1/8 x 25 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.1077

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    Americas

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  • John Adams

    after 1783

    After John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    51.43 x 34.61 cm (20 1/4 x 13 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    23.180

    Collections

    Americas

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  • John Adams

    1823

    Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    76.2 x 63.5 cm (30 x 25 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1999.590

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Thomas Jefferson

    1789

    Jean-Antoine Houdon, French, 1741–1828 French

    Description

    Saravezza marble on gray and white marble base. Head turned slightly to right. Contemporary costume coat with standing collar, waistcoat with buttons, stock. Long hair tied at nape of neck; part of bow knot missing.

    Details

    Dimensions

    56.5 x 48 x 26 cm (22 1/4 x 18 7/8 x 10 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Stone; marble

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    34.129

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Head of Washington

    about 1795–98

    Charles Willson Peale, American, 1741–1827 American

    Description

    By the late 18th century, George Washington, first the Commander-in-chief of the victorious Continental Army and subsequently the first president of the United States, was the most famous person in America and one of the most renowned men in the world. Many artists took his likeness, but Charles Willson Peale was one of the first and most persistent, painting more than seventy likenesses of Washington during his career. Peale painted seven life portraits of Washington, beginning in 1772 when Washington was a colonel in the colonial militia, and ending in 1795, when he was midway through his second term as president. The "Head of Washington" is one of Peale's replicas of the canvas he painted in 1795; the original is in the New-York Historical Society. In addition to the MFA's painting, Peale completed at least seven other replicas of the 1795 canvas between 1795 and 1798; most are in private collections. (For a complete discussion of Peale's portraits of Washington and his replicas, see Charles Coleman Sellers, "Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale," Philadelphia: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 42, 1952, pp. 216-241.)

    Peale had temporarily ceased painting in 1795 and was devoting his attention to his natural history museum in Philadelphia. When Henry William De Saussure, director of the United States Mint, asked him to portray George Washington, Peale convinced De Saussure to give the commission to his seventeen-year-old son Rembrandt instead. The elder Peale did persuade Washington to pose, and, in order to smooth the way during the sittings, Peale decided to join Rembrandt and to paint Washington's portrait as well, intending to use it in his own museum. Thus both father and son showed up for the first meeting in the fall of 1795. At later appointments, James Peale, Charles Willson's brother, and Raphaelle and Titian Peale, two other sons, joined them. Painter Gilbert Stuart, who happened on the scene, quipped to Mrs. Washington that her husband was being "Pealed all around" (Lillian B. Miller, "In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale 1778-1860," Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, 1992, p.32). While they were working, Charles Willson Peale sat to the right of Rembrandt, and thus in his portrait, Washington is turned about three quarters to the left. In Rembrandt's likeness, a replica of which is also in the MFA's collection (30.474), Washington is seen at a slightly different angle-somewhat more full-faced.

    Peale's 1795 image of Washington differs from his other six life portraits in that it is the only one painted when Washington was president and the only one where he is shown in civilian dress. In Peale's other life portraits, Washington wears his military uniform, commemorating his service on the battlefield and as a general. Peale, himself a former soldier, took great pains to render the uniform correctly, even updating the insignia of rank in his later replicas as Washington received more stars on his epaulets. In contrast, in the 1795 portrait there is little to take the viewer's attention away from Washington's face, and Peale appears to have concentrated on making that visage worthy of the leader of the new republic. The extent of Peale's idealization is evident in comparison with Rembrandt Peale's more straight forward likeness from the same sitting (National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.). The elder Peale produced an image of a dignified, serious, and intelligent leader.

    Despite the many efforts of the Peales, it was Gilbert Stuart who produced the most enduring images of the first president of the United States (1980.1). However, Peale's portrait is notable for its classical idealism, as art historian Lillian Miller has noted, describing "a combination of particularity of image and a recognition of the meaning of the individual in public, or universal, terms, an image that is timeless and therefore iconic" (Lillian B. Miller and David C. Ward, eds., "New Perspectives on Charles Willson Peale," Pittsburgh: Smithsonian Institution and University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991, p. 99). Peale biographer Charles Coleman Sellers also found much to admire in the elder Peale's 1795 portrait, writing that the artist "caught a sense of movement, awareness, and intelligence which dignifies the face far more than that 'force of expression and effect' sought by later painters" (Sellers, p. 241).

    The MFA's replica is on a small panel, made after the much larger (29 by 23 ½ inch) original on canvas. There is one other small panel replica of the same portrait (private collection), but these are unusual in Peale's work. Peale painted "Head of Washington" for Mrs. John Callahan of Annapolis, Maryland, with whose family Peale often stayed when he visited the city. Peale had already completed portraits of John Callahan; Sarah Buckland Callahan and her daughter; and two Callahan daughters (all at the Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis). The MFA's "Head of Washington" descended in the Callahan family for three generations, and was then acquired by Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. Sumner (74.30), known primarily as a vociferous advocate for the emancipation of slaves, was also a patron of the arts. In 1874, he bequeathed 94 paintings to the MFA, many of which were sold to buy plaster casts for the new museum to be built in Copley Square in Boston. Peale's bust of George Washington and Lucas Cranach's "The Lamentation" (74.28) are among the works that remain in the collection.

    Janet Comey

    Details

    Dimensions

    19.05 x 15.24 cm (7 1/2 x 6 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    74.29

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    Americas

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  • Old Man in Prayer

    Circle Of Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch, 1606–1669 Dutch

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    75.3 x 59.7 cm (29 5/8 x 23 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    03.1080

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Self Portrait Wearing a Soft Cap: Full Face, Head Only

    about 1634

    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch, 1606–1669 Dutch

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet (trimmed to platemark): 5.1 x 4.4 cm (2 x 1 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Etching

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    23.1008

    Collections

    Europe , Prints and Drawings

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  • Bust of an Old Man with a Fur Cap and Flowing Beard

    about 1631

    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch, 1606–1669 Dutch

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Platemark: 6.1 x 5.3 cm (2 3/8 x 2 1/16 in.) Sheet: 6.2 x 5.4 cm (2 7/16 x 2 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Etching

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    25.1145

    Collections

    Europe , Prints and Drawings

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  • Artist in his Studio

    about 1628

    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch, 1606–1669 Dutch

    Description

    In this small painting, the young Rembrandt seems to represent the daunting moments of conception and decision necessary to the creation of a work of art. An artist confronts his easel in a studio bare of everything except his essential tools. This drama, with its emphasis on thought rather than action, is intensified by the expressive use of light and shadow. The painting's daring perspective is also important: the distant figure of the painter seems dwarfed by his work, looming large in the foreground.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 24.8 x 31.7cm (9 3/4 x 12 1/2in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    38.1838

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Evangelist Writing

    Circle Of Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch, 1606–1669 Dutch

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    104.5 x 84.5 cm (41 1/8 x 33 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    39.581

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Homer

    late 1st century B.C. or 1st century A.D.

    Description

    Rare pseudo-portrait of Homer of late Hellenistic date, probably based on the earlier baroque style of the second century Pergamene School. This is an Invented image of the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Unruly hair, knitted brow, suggest the intensity of the sage; treatment of the eyes reflect the ancient tradition of the blind bard.

    The base of the neck is worked for insertion. Most of the nose is missing, as is a fragment from the right side of the neck. Otherwise, the preservation of the surface is almost perfect, and the sculpture has a clean, very light yellow appearance.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 41cm (16 1/8 in.); length (of face): 21 cm ( 8 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Marble (probably from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens)

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    04.13

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Cleopatra

    17th century

    Francesco Baratta, Italian, about 1590–1666 Italian

    Description

    Marble, white streaked with gray. Figure is seated on chair and clutches serpent to her breast. Dressed in robes and crown.

    Details

    Dimensions

    86.4 x 38.1 x 53.3 cm (34 x 15 x 21 in.)

    Medium

    Stone, white marble streaked with gray

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1982.543

    Collections

    Europe

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  • New Year's Card: Cleopatra from Historical Photographs...

    1917

    Artist Unknown, Japanese

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 8.8 x 13.8 cm (3 7/16 x 5 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Color lithograph; ink and metallic pigment on card stock

    Classification

    Postcards

    Accession Number

    2002.1649

    Collections

    Asia , Prints and Drawings

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  • Bust of Cleopatra

    about 1519–22

    Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi, Italian, about 1460–1528 Italian

    Description

    Patinated black surface (with bronze shining through), and traces of gilding. Life-size bust with head turned and bent, eyes downcast, Classical face, wavy hair. Crown and serpent on base identify it as Cleopatra. Diadem, two buttons at top of gown.

    Details

    Dimensions

    64.45 cm (25 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Metal; bronze, with traces of gilding

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    64.2174

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Head of King Tutankhamen

    1336–1327 B.C.

    Description

    In 1922, Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. The smallest of the royal tombs, it was the only one that preserved its fabulous treasures virtually intact, the king's mummy resting undisturbed in its four coffins and four shrines nested one inside the other. Despite the unprecedented media coverage lavished on this sensational discovery, Tutankhamen remains a mysterious figure. He was probably born at el-Amarna, the new capital city built by Akhenaten. Succeeding to the throne as a boy of nine or ten years of age, Tutankhamen was taken in hand by the traditionalist clergy and made to repudiate Akhenaten's religious reforms. He abandoned el-Amarna, reopened the other temples, and showered attention on the old gods. He received little thanks for his piety, however, for later rulers continued to associate him with the heretic Akhenaten. His memory was suppressed, and his statues were appropriated by other rulers, notably Horemheb. When he was remembered at all, it was as a minor ruler. No wonder his tomb treasures caused such a sensation. So familiar are the "boy king's" gentle features now, that one immediately recognizes a sculpture as his even if it had been usurped by a later ruler or, as here, lacks an inscription. Traces of paint show that the nemes headdress was striped alternately blue and yellow as on the famous gold mask from his tomb.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 29.6 x 26.5 cm (11 5/8 x 10 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Sandstone

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    11.1533

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Portrait head of Socrates

    about A.D. 170–195

    Description

    This smallish head of Socrates was probably a herm-portrait originally. The vigorous carving belongs to the Antonine period, although it was likely based on a prototype attributed to Lysippos from the fourth century B.C.

    Condition: The head is broken at the base of the neck. The nose, now missing, was repaired in antiquity with an iron pin and cement. There are a few modern pick marks on the face. Root marks and a yellow patina cover the surfaces.

    Scientific Analysis:
    Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.637 / delta18O -5.170, Attribution - Pentelikon, Justification (Petrographic Analysis) - maximum grain size (0.7mm), accessory minerals (muscovite).

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 20.4cm (8 1/16in.)

    Medium

    Marble from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    60.45

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Bust of Prince Ankhhaf

    2520–2494 B.C.

    Description

    In ancient Egypt, artists almost never created true portraits. This bust of Ankhhaf, therefore, breaks the rule. It is made of limestone covered with a thin layer of plaster, into which details have been modeled by the hand of a master. Rather than a stylized representation, the face is of an individual. From inscriptions in his tomb, we know that Ankhhaf was the son of a king, probably Sneferu, brother of another, Khufu, and that he served Khafre as vizier and overseer of works. In this last capacity, he may have overseen the building of the second pyramid and carving of the sphinx.

    Ankhhaf's features are those of a mature man. His skull shows a receding hairline. His eyelids droop slightly over eyes originally painted white with brown pupils. Puffy pouches are rendered underneath. Diagonal furrows set off a stern mouth. Apparently, he once had a short beard made from a separate piece of plaster. It was lost in antiquity, as were his ears. His gaze is that of a commanding and willful man, someone who was accustomed to having his orders obeyed. It was the way he wanted to be remembered for eternity.

    Ankhhaf's mastaba was the largest in the great Eastern Cemetery at Giza. His bust was installed in a mudbrick chapel attached to the east side of the tomb and oriented so that it faced the chapel's entryway. The chapel walls were covered in exquisitely modeled low relief. It has been suggested that Ankhhaf's arms were sculpted on the low pedestal on which he sat, thereby making him appear even more lifelike. Passersby left more than ninety models of food and drink for Ankhhaf to enjoy in the afterlife.

    Ankhhaf is unique, and by the terms of the Museum's contract with the Egyptian government, he should have gone to the Cairo Museum. However, he was awarded to Boston by the Antiquities Service in gratitude for the Harvard-Boston Expedition's painstaking work to excavate and restore objects from the tomb of Queen Hetepheres.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 50.48 cm (19 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Painted limestone

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    27.442

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Reserve head of Nofer

    2551–2494 B.C.

    Description

    We may not know exactly what Nofer looked like, but we can be sure that he had a large aquiline nose. This aspect is featured prominently on the north doorjamb from his chapel as well as on the reserve head found at the bottom of the tomb's shaft. The scale with which Nofer is represented on the walls - three times bigger than other figures - and the fourteen different offices enumerated there demonstrate that he was a prominent official in Dynasty 4. Among his titles, both real and honorary, were overseer of the treasury, overseer of the king's regalia, overseer of the arsenal, secretary of all the secrets of the king, estate manager, and royal scribe.

    While Nofer's relief is idealized, his reserve head offers a much more portraitlike representation of how he must have looked, with a somewhat elongated face, high cheekbones, and a square chin, in addition to his prominent nose. The rough cutting of the nose, ears, and hairline suggest that in this case, finer detailing might have been executed in plaster. Alternatively, it may represent intentional damage inflicted for reasons that remain unknown.

    George Reisner was not the first to enter Nofer's tomb in modern times when he excavated it in 1905. August Mariette, the first director of antiquities, found the tomb in 1857, and in the following year he presented the other (southern) doorjamb of the tomb chapel to the viceroy of Egypt, who, in turn, presented it to Prince Napoleon of France. From there it entered another French collection before it was purchased by the Louvre in 1868. Other relief-decorated blocks were plundered from the tomb prior to the MFA excavations and are currently in Rome, Copenhagen, and Birmingham (England).

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 27.1 cm (10 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Limestone

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    06.1886

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Colossal statue of King Menkaura (Mycerinus)

    2490–2472 B.C.

    Description

    This colossal statue is one of the largest sculptures of the Pyramid Age. With a height of nearly 2.35 meters (8 feet), as restored, it features King Menkaura, who built the smallest of the three pyramids at Giza. His clothing and headgear clearly identify him as the ruler. He wears a wraparound kilt with a central projection, a garment worn only by kings until the end of the Old Kingdom. On his head is a royal kerchief, called a nemes. A cobra, known as a ureaus, is at his brow. This serpent was considered a deity and charged with protecting the king by wrapping itself around the royal brow and spitting its poisonous venom at the king's enemies. Menkaura's long straight beard, another symbol of royalty, was attached by means of a strap that was once painted on the statue's head. His right hand is clasped around a folded cloth, the ends of which extend onto his thigh.

    The king's expression is one of regal composure and supreme control. With its slightly bulging eyes, bulbous nose, painted moustache (now barely visible), set mouth with pouting lower lip and firm chin, the face is distinctive, but whether or not it represents a true portrait of Menkaura can never be known. This is the face of a mature adult, although neither face nor body displays any signs of aging. It has often been remarked that the head is unusually small for the king's body. Whatever the artist's reason for doing this, it certainly emphasizes the breadth of the figure's torso and enhances its image as omnipotent king.

    This statue sat in the deep niche at the back of Menkaura's Pyramid Temple located at the base of the eastern face of his pyramid until, for reasons unknown, it was deliberately destroyed. In January 1907, George Reisner found fragments from the shoulder and torso in a pit in that room and the large fragment comprising the hands, legs, and throne base in an adjacent corridor. Two months later, while excavating what proved to be a robber's trench nearby, Reisner found the head in nearly perfect condition.

    The different installations of Menkaura atthe MFA reflect the changing aesthetics of the Museum audience. When the fragments first arrived in the Museum, only the head and leg were exhibited. Two years later, additional torso pieces were added, and an abstract restoration of the missing torso elements was attempted. In 1925, at Reisner's request, the well-known watercolorist and artist for the expedition, Joseph Lindon Smith, sculpted the torso and buttocks in a more naturalistic manner. The restoration that visitors see today was accomplished in 1935 by Smith, assisted by Museum School student Charles Muskavitch.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 243.8 x 115.6 x 83.8 cm (96 x 45 1/2 x 33 in.) Other (head): 37.5 x 47cm (14 3/4 x 18 1/2in.)

    Medium

    Travertine (Egyptian alabaster)

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    09.204

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Postman Joseph Roulin

    1888

    Vincent van Gogh, Dutch (worked in France), 1853–1890 Dutch

    Description

    One of van Gogh's closest friends and favorite sitters in Arles was the local postman, Joseph Roulin. While painting this work, van Gogh wrote to his brother, "I am now at work with another model, a postman in blue uniform, trimmed with gold, a big bearded face, very like Socrates." Indeed, the modest postman has all the authority of an admiral. Van Gogh also painted several portraits of Madame Roulin (for example, MFA object no. 48.548), as well as images of their children, delighted, as he wrote, to depict "a whole family."

    Details

    Dimensions

    81.3 x 65.4 cm (32 x 25 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    35.1982

    Collections

    Europe

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  • King Menkaura (Mycerinus) and queen

    2490–2472 B.C.

    Description

    At twilight on January 10, 1910, a young boy beckoned George Reisner to the Menkaura Valley Temple. There, emerging from a robbers' pit into which they had been discarded were the tops of two heads, perfectly preserved and nearly life-size. This was the modern world's first glimpse of one of humankind's artistic masterworks, the statue of Menkaura and queen.

    The two figures stand side-by-side, gazing into eternity. He represents the epitome of kingship and the ideal human male form. She is the ideal female. He wears the nemes on his head, a long artificial beard, and a wraparound kilt with central tab, all of which identify him as king. In his hand he clasps what may be abbreviated forms of the symbols of his office. His high cheekbones, bulbous nose, slight furrows running diagonally from his nose to the corners of his mouth, and lower lip thrust out in a slight pout, may be seen on her as well, although her face has a feminine fleshiness, which his lacks. Traces of red paint remain on his face and black paint on her wig.

    His broad shoulders, taut torso, and muscular arms and legs, all modeled with subtlety and restraint, convey a latent strength. In contrast, her narrow shoulders and slim body, whose contours are apparent under her tight-fitting sheath dress, represent the Egyptian ideal of femininity. As is standard for sculptures of Egyptian men, his left foot is advanced, although all his weight remains on the right foot. Typically, Egyptian females are shown with both feet together, but here, the left foot is shown slightly forward. Although they stand together sharing a common base and back slab, and she embraces him, they remain aloof and share no emotion, either with the viewer or each other.

    Who is represented here? The base of the statue which is usually inscribed with the names and titles of the subject represented, was left unfinished and never received the final polish of most of the rest of the statue. Because it was found in Menkaura's Valley Temple and because it resembles other statues from the same findspot bearing his name, there is no doubt that the male figure is King Menkaura. Reisner suggested that the woman was Queen Kamerernebty II, the only of Menkaura's queens known by name. She, however, had only a mastaba tomb, while two unidentified queens of Menkaura had small pyramids. Others have suggested that she represents the goddess Hathor, although she exhibits no divine attributes. Because later kings are often shown with their mothers, still other scholars have suggested that the woman by Menkaura's side may be his mother. However, in private sculptures when a man and woman are shown together and their relationship is indicated, they are most often husband and wife. Because private sculpture is modeled after royal examples, this suggests that she is indeed one of Menkaura's queens, but ultimately, the name of the woman represented in this splendid sculpture may never be known.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 142.2 x 57.1 x 55.2 cm, 676.8 kg (56 x 22 1/2 x 21 3/4 in., 1492.1 lb.) Block (Wooden skirts and two top): 53.3 x 180 x 179.7 cm (21 x 70 7/8 x 70 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Greywacke

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    11.1738

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Statue of Lady Sennuwy

    1971–1926 B.C.

    Description

    Egyptian officials of the Middle Kingdom continued the practice of equipping their tombs with statues to house the ka of the tomb owner and to provide a focal point for the offering cult. Highly ranked officials also dedicated statues of themselves at sanctuaries of gods and deified ancestors. Following the experimental and idiosyncratic interlude of the First Intermediate Period, sculptors once again produced large-scale stone statues, returning to the basic forms and poses established in the Old Kingdom.

    This elegant seated statue of Lady Sennuwy of Asyut is one of the most superbly carved and beautifully proportioned sculptures from the Middle Kingdom. The unknown artist shaped and polished the hard, gray granodiorite with extraordinary skill, suggesting that he was trained in a royal workshop. He has portrayed Sennuwy as a slender, graceful young woman, dressed in the tightly fitting sheath dress that was fashionable at the time. The carefully modeled planes of the face, framed by a long, thick, striated wig, convey a serene confidence and timeless beauty. Such idealized, youthful, and placid images characterize the first half of Dynasty 12 and hark back to the art of the Old Kingdom. Sennuwy sits poised and attentive on a solid, blocklike chair, with her left hand resting flat on her lap and her right hand holding a lotus blossom, a symbol of rebirth. Inscribed on the sides and base of the chair are hieroglyphic texts declaring that she is venerated in the presence of Osiris and other deities associated with the afterlife.

    Sennuwy was the wife of a powerful provincial governor, Djefaihapi of Asyut, whose rock-cut tomb is the largest nonroyal tomb of the Middle Kingdom. Clearly, the couple had access to the finest artists and materials available. It is likely that this statue, along with a similar sculpture of Djefaihapi, was originally set up in the tomb chapel, although they may also have stood in a sanctuary. Both statues were discovered, however, far to the south at Kerma in Nubia, where they had been buried in the royal tumulus of a Nubian king who lived generations after Sennuwy's death. They must have been removed from their original location and exported to Nubia some three hundred years after they were made. Exactly how, why, and when these pieces of sculpture, along with numerous other Egyptian statues, found their way to Kerma, however, is still unknown.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Framed (The object sits on epoxy bed /structural steel pallet tubing): 21.6 x 62.2 x 116.2 cm (8 1/2 x 24 1/2 x 45 3/4 in.) Mount (Steel channel base with cross bracing 3" x 3/16"): 30.5 x 62.2 x 116.2 cm (12 x 24 1/2 x 45 3/4 in.) Overall (steel pallet and object, weighed): 170.2 x 116.2 x 47 cm, 1224.71 kg (67 x 45 3/4 x 18 1/2 in., 2700 lb.) Weight (Object and steel pallet with attaching steel base, estimate): 1319.97 kg (2910 lb.) Weight (Object (calculated by subtracting estimate of pallet weight)): 1079.56 kg (2380 lb.)

    Medium

    Granodiorite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    14.720

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Head of Amenhotep III

    1390–1352 B.C.

    Description

    Egypt in the reign of Amenhotep III was at the pinnacle of wealth and splendor, and the king was able to carry out a building program of unparalleled breadth and scope. Temples were erected up and down the Nile according to an organized and well thought-out plan, and these buildings were populated with thousands of statues of the king, large and small, in a variety of materials. This head, from a complete standing figure, is very fine and of the choicest material - quartzite - the stone the Egyptians called "wondrous."

    Even though the sculpture is uninscribed, there is no mistaking its identity, for it captures Amenhotep III's exotic features to perfection. He has long, narrow, almond-shaped eyes, their length extended by makeup lines, paralleled by the equally long, sweeping curves of his cosmetically enhanced eyebrows. His mouth is wide and voluptuous, with thick lips (the upper lip thicker than the lower). Not a line or blemish disturbs the Buddha-like serenity of his expression; there is not the slightest tension. When complete, the statue would have stood at least 182.9 centimeters tall (six feet), excluding the base. The tall crown would have had a knob at the top, as on the triad of Menkaura, Hathor, and the Hare nome. Enough remains to show that the king wore the long, plaited beard of a god, with a turned-up end.

    In all probability this was an Osiride statue, showing the king standing, arms crossed, feet together, in the same mummiform pose as Mentuhotep III as Osiris. To the ancient Egyptians, there was nothing inherently funereal about this pose; rather, it contained the promise of resurrection, for in a moment, the mummy would emerge from his wrappings, reborn, no longer motionless but free to move about as he desired. This type of statue was particularly appropriate for kings' funerary temples, their "mansions of millions of years," and indeed fragments of similar statues have been found at Amenhotep III's funerary temple at Kom el-Hetan, Thebes, where quartzite was lavishly employed.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 52.5 x 21.2 x 26.2cm (20 11/16 x 8 3/8 x 10 5/16in.) Case (wooden base- trap door in back): 112.4 x 59.1 x 66.7 cm (44 1/4 x 23 1/4 x 26 1/4 in.) Case (plex-case ): 79.7 x 54.9 x 62.5 cm (31 3/8 x 21 5/8 x 24 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Quartzite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    09.288

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Self Portrait

    1830

    Sarah Goodridge, American, 1788–1853 American

    Description

    In this miniature self portrait, Sarah Goodridge (sometimes spelled Goodrich) depicted herself staring out of the composition with a poised directness, implying confidence in herself and her artistic abilities. According to the artist's sister Eliza, who also became a miniature painter, Sarah began studying art by reading a book on drawing and painting. In 1805 she moved to the Boston area where she took drawing lessons, but it was only after she worked with an unidentified miniature painter from Hartford, Connecticut, that she began experimenting with painting in this medium. Goodridge opened a studio in Boston in 1820 and perfected her artistic skills by studying with the leading American portraitist of her time, Gilbert Stuart. Although Stuart specialized in large-scale works in oil, he purportedly painted one of his only miniatures (General Henry Knox, about 1820, Worcester Art Museum) as a demonstration piece for Goodridge.
    This self portrait demonstrates Goodridge's characteristic realism, with every detail-down to the tiny wrinkles around her eyes-painstakingly delineated. The artist's evident self-assuredness was well-warranted. By 1830 she had become one of the leading miniaturists in Boston, executing as many as two paintings a week and supporting herself and her family through her art. She received commissions from such famous individuals as Daniel Webster, General Henry Lee, and her teacher, Gilbert Stuart, and exhibited her miniatures at the annual exhibitions of the Boston Athenaeum between 1827 and 1835. Such accomplishments were truly remarkable in the antebellum American art world, in which talented women were rarely given the opportunity to achieve such levels of success.

    This text was adapted from Davis, et al., MFA Highlights: American Painting (Boston, 2003) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.

    Details

    Dimensions

    9.52 x 6.73 cm (3 3/4 x 2 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Watercolor on ivory

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    95.1424

    Collections

    Americas

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  • The Master Smith of Lyme Regis

    1895

    James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American (active in England),...

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    51.43 x 31.11 cm (20 1/4 x 12 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    96.951

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Head of a priest (The Boston Green Head)

    380–332 B.C.

    Description

    This head of a priest, called the Boston Green Head, is the best portrait sculpture known from the Late Period. The face is wonderfully lifelike and individual. Light wavy lines indicate the furrows of his brow, and crow’s feet radiate from the outer corners of his eyes. The top of his nose has a pronounced bony ridge. Deep creases run from the edges of his nose to the corners of his mouth. Thin lips and a downturned mouth impart an expression of strength and determination. The slight wart on his left cheek is unique in Egyptian art and also introduces an element of asymmetry dear to the artists of the Late Period.

    The head has an illustrious provenance. In the spring of 1857, Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, a cousin of Emperor Napoleon III known as Prince Plonplon, announced his intention to visit Egypt. Archduke Maximilian of Austria had recently returned from a Nile excursion with a handsome collection of Egyptian art, and the prince vowed to surpass him. Said Pasha, the passionately pro-French viceroy of Egypt, was determined to please his imperial guest. He charged Auguste Mariette, famed discoverer of the Serapeum, the burial place of the sacred Apis bulls, with the task of building a collection. To save time, Mariette was to explore the proposed itinerary, dig for antiquities, and then rebury them, thus facilitating their rediscovery by the prince. In the end, Plonplon canceled his reservations, but nonetheless received a selection of choice objects — including the Green Head as a souvenir of the trip that never was. Yet there were happy consequences, for as a result of his efforts and through the prince’s influence, Mariette was appointed Egypt’s first director of antiquities, a milestone in the care and protection of Egypt’s monuments.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 10.5 x 8.5 x 11.3 cm (4 1/8 x 3 3/8 x 4 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Greywacke

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    04.1749

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Mummy mask

    A.D. 1–50

    Description

    Traditional Egyptian funerary practices continued well into Roman times, when cartonnage mummy masks were made to fit over the head of the wrapped mummy. They belong to the same tradition as mummy masks from the Middle Kingdom. This face, modeled in plaster, is bland and idealized, and represents the deceased transformed into a god. The gilding and glass inlays are quite dazzling. Yet the black hair emerging from beneath the headdress lends a human touch to this shining icon.

    The traditional lappet headdress is painted with age-old funerary motifs. A winged sun disk with uraei, image of the celestial Horus, crowns the head like a diadem, and rows of seated deities, Anubis jackals, and solar uraei adorn the sides. The broadcollar is a kaleidoscope of rosettes and geometric patterns imitating rows of beads.

    The scene on the chest depicts the resurrection of Osiris. The god reclines on a lion bier, with Isis in front of him and Nephthys behind him, gesticulating with grief and uttering magic spells to bring him back to life. Above him hovers a falcon holding in its talons the shen-ring of eternity and a feather fan. Below are the Red Crown, the Double Crown, and the White Crown — the emblems of his power. Magic seems to take effect before our eyes as the shrouded one, the great god Osiris — his flesh of Nile silt, ram’s horns of divinity on his head — sits up in bed and turns to face his sister-wife. The god is reborn.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 57.2 cm (22 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Painted and gilded cartonnage, inlaid glass

    Classification

    Tomb equipment , Masks

    Accession Number

    1993.555.1

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , The Ancient World

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