The Revolutionary Boston and New Nation galleries feature historically significant paintings and decorative arts produced during the period of the American Revolution and the creation of the United States. This chapter in the nation’s history took place on a global stage, with works of art made in mahogany, silver, and other materials imported from the Caribbean and colonial territories of South America. Bolstered by global commerce, this period was characterized by wealthy colonial consumer tastes and imperial power of the Americas.
Early American portraits tie politics to painting. John Singleton Copley depicted figures who would play major roles in the Revolution, among them, Paul Revere (1768), who made the famous Sons of Liberty Bowl (1768); Samuel Adams (about 1772), who confronted the British governor; and Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis) (about 1763), who documented the fight for independence. The dramatic Passage of the Delaware (1819) by Thomas Sully shows General George Washington, already mythologized as a symbol of the intrepid new nation.
The objects in these galleries also bear witness to the many people not pictured here. Furniture and decorative arts of this period evidence the contributions of the enslaved and unidentified laborers, woodworkers, artisans, and caretakers who created and maintained such luxuries. Our interpretations of these collections continue to evolve.