Boston Art Commission

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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








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.

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