John Singleton Copley
North America, American, Massachusetts
30 1/2 in. x 25 1/4 in. (77.47 cm x 64.14 cm)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama, The Blount Collection
Currently On View
Joseph Henshaw (1727-1794) graduated from Harvard in 1748, and spent the following two years selling American goods in Italian ports. He returned to Harvard in 1752 to receive his master’s degree. Henshaw prospered as a merchant and became a member of the Sons of Liberty, who often met at his home. A delegate to the Leicester Committtee of Correspondence and a Colonel of Militia, Henshaw was sent by the town of Leicester to the First Massachusetts Provincial Congress in 1775.
Instead of relying on material goods and instruments of leisure or learning to portray the sitter’s status (as was typical of the period), Copley utilizes the solemn expression and sober clothing of the sitter himself to convey his character. Henshaw took a leadership role in the movement toward revolution, and his portrait suggests the serious nature of the environment and the decisive historical moment in which it was produced.
American Paintings from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, 2006, cat. no. 1, p. 36.