Boston Art Commission

« back

Click on thumbnails to view additional images of this piece:
  • John Hancock, unknown copy from Copley original

John Hancock


Unknown, after an original by John Singleton Copley


Faneuil Hall  


Faneuil Hall
United States
42° 21' 36.2376" N, 71° 3' 22.5576" W








Oil on Canvas




Like many paintings that currently hang in Faneuil Hall, this portrait is a copy commissioned by the City of Boston in 1876. By an unknown artist, this painting replaces the original 1765 portrait by John Singleton Copley (1737-1815), which was moved to the Museum of Fine Arts for safe keeping. The subject of the painting, John Hancock (1737-1792), was born in Braintree and inherited his uncle’s shipping business. At a relatively young age, Hancock became one of the wealthiest men in New England. With his newfound status as a member of the upper class, Hancock became a leading political figure in the Revolutionary War, using his wealth to fund the colonial resistance to British rule. In this portrait, Hancock sports a gold-trimmed coat and waistcoat, silk stockings, ruffled sleeves, and powdered wig - all signifiers of his wealth and high societal standing. The lush silk drapery that frames the composition adds to the impression of prosperity and is a nod toward Hancock’s taste for the extravagant. However, despite all of this finery, Hancock is shown entering information into a business ledger, as if to remind viewers of his skill as a man of industry. The original portrait was painted nearly ten years before 1776, but the quill Hancock holds in his right hand serves as a subtle nod to viewers today of his famously elaborate signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Audio Description: