Boston Art Commission

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Peter Faneuil


Henry Sargent, after an original by John Smibert


Faneuil Hall  


Faneuil Hall
United States








Oil on Canvas




The namesake to Boston's celebrated Faneuil Hall, Peter Faneuil (1700-1743) was a wealthy Bostonian who made his fortune as a merchant in the slave trade. He was born in New Rochelle, New York, and moved to Boston as a young man to join his uncle in the shipping business, which he eventually inherited. While Faneuil had a reputation for living well, he was also known as a considerate employer and a generous public benefactor. In 1740, he offered to build Boston a public market house; it was finished a few months before his death and was subsequently named “Faneuil Hall” in his honor. John Smibert (1688-1751), Faneuil Hall’s first architect, painted a posthumous portrait of Peter Faneuil to be hung in the original hall. This painting was damaged in the great fire of  1761, but was rehung in the next incarnation of the hall. This particular painting had another run of poor luck when it was further damaged in a 1775 demonstation by patriots against members of the Faneuil family - who had lost much of their popularity when they joined the British evacuation of Boston. Smibert’s portrait of Peter Faneuil was then copied by Henry Sargent (1770-1845) in 1807, in order to preserve the likeness of the deteriorating original. This is the painting that is displayed today, a gift to Faneuil Hall by Samuel Parkman.

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