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Click on thumbnails to view additional images of this piece:
  • Samuel Adams
  • Samuel Adams, Millet (copy from Copley original)

Samuel Adams


Francis David Millet


Faneuil Hall  


Faneuil Hall
United States






1768 (original)


Oil on Canvas


City of Boston



Born in Boston, Samuel Adams (1722-1803) was a popular leader in the city’s opposition to British rule of the American colonies, along with his cousin John Adams. Samuel Adams advocated the forming of a continental congress, to which he was elected, and was eventually a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  He also served as governor of Massachusetts from 1794 to 1797.

In the painting, Adams is shown in the act of challenging Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts, whose secret collusion with the British army led to the Boston Massacre of 1770, when British troops shot and killed five unarmed colonists. Adams is holding a petition of angry Massachusetts residents and pointing to the Massachusetts Charter, forcefully demanding that Hutchinson expel British troops from Boston. The portrait is an unusual one for Copley, as it captures a specific historic moment as opposed to a more passive seated pose. Despite the heroism of Adams’s gesture, Copley (and subsequently, Millet) portrays Adams as a less than idealized figure, with a massive head atop small, sloped shoulders, a bulky, almost clumsy torso, and a piercing glare. The original portrait was commissioned by John Hancock for his Beacon Street mansion. Millet, the copyist, died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912.

Like the painting of John Quincy Adams, the original portrait of Samuel Adams by John Singleton Copley was moved to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts after a vote in 1876, deeming the wooden interior of Faneuil Hall too prone to fire damage.

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