In 1767, Nicholas Boylston, a wealthy international merchant in Boston, commissioned John Singleton Copley to paint his portrait. The resulting artwork is oil on canvas and measures 127.6 x 102.2 cm. The recreated scene shows Boylston as a confident and sophisticated gentleman wearing elegant attire.
Copley’s portraits of prominent figures during this time often blended fact with fiction. This method allowed the artist to bring out the sitter’s character better while also painting idealized representations of their subjects. In this case, the portrait showcases Boylston’s wealth and status among his peers while showing off Copley’s mastery of textiles and colors.
Boylston played an important role in the growth of Boston as an economic center by importing consumer goods that were then sold throughout New England. Interestingly enough, it was Copley himself who directly benefited from importing these goods being as he had been tied up with trading woolen textiles frequently from Nicholas Boylston before agreeing to paint his subject’s portrait.
In conclusion, this artwork serves as a symbol of prosperity during colonial America and highlights the fine craftsmanship skills that prevailed in those times through paintings created by inspired artists like John Singleton Copley.