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Profile portrait of a man in a red jacket and large black hat

A portrait of a man in profile looking left, turning his head slightly toward us. His light skinned, clean-shaven ruddy face, and his wispy gray hair are rendered in finished detail. The collar of his red jacket and his large black hat with two points are brushed in more loosely, while his arm is indicated only by a brushed in outline on blank white canvas. The background similarly consists only of outlines of details quickly brushed in on blank canvas.

Gallery Text

In 1783, the City of London commissioned Copley to create a large public painting commemorating Britain’s victory over the French and Spanish navies at the Siege of Gibraltar in 1782. These portraits were preparatory studies for that painting. Committed to a new kind of history painting that would be grounded in factual and visual accuracy, Copley hoped to incorporate life portraits of soldiers who had participated in the battle. In the summer of 1787, he traveled to Germany to paint De La Motte (1942.179), von Hugo, and von Schlepegrell (1942.180), German officers who had helped the British to defend Gibraltar. Among the liveliest and most engaging works in Copley’s oeuvre, these portraits are both character studies and experiments in composition, as the extensive underdrawing around each figure suggests.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
John Singleton Copley, American (Boston, MA 1738 - 1815 London, England)
Colonel Gustav Friedrich von Dachenhausen
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2240, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, The Arts in the Eighteenth–Century Atlantic World
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
52.1 x 41.9 cm (20 1/2 x 16 1/2 in.)
framed: 74.3 x 64.1 x 7.9 cm (29 1/4 x 25 1/4 x 3 1/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
To artist’s son Lord Lyndhurst; sold at his estate sale to Clarke, March 5, 1864; Mrs. Charles (Martha Babcock) Amory; to daughter, Mrs. F. Gordon Dexter (Susan Greene Amory, by 1915; to her son Gordon Dexter; to his wife Mrs. Gordon Dexter; her gift to the Fogg Art Museum, 1942.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mrs. Gordon Dexter
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Ernst von dem Knesebeck, Geschichte der churhannoverschen Truppen in Gibraltar, Minorca und Ostindien, Im Verlage der Helwingschen Hof-Buchhandlung (Hannover, Germany, 1845), p. 89
  • Henry T. Tuckerman, Book of the Artists: American Artist Life, Comprising Biographical and Critical Sketches of American Artists, Preceded by an Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of Art in America, Putnam (New York, NY, 1867), p. 79
  • Augustus Thorndyke Perkins, A Sketch of the Life and a List of Some of the Works of John Singleton Copley, J. R. Osgood & Company (Boston, MA, 1873), p. 132
  • Martha Babcock Amory, The Domestic and Artistic Life of John Singleton Copley, R.A., Houghton Mifflin Company (Boston, MA, 1882), pp. 93-94
  • Frank William Bayley, The Life and Works of John Singleton Copley: Founded on the Work of Augustus Thorndike Perkins, The Taylor Press (Boston, MA, 1915), pp. 34, 36, 97, 225
  • Theodore Bolton and Henry Lorin Binsse, "John Singleton Copley", The Antiquarian (New York, NY, December 1930), pp. 116-118., p. 116
  • "Gifts", Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, November 1942), vol. X, no. 1, p. 3
  • Jules David Prown, John Singleton Copley, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1966), vol. 2, pp. 327, 402, 416, pl. 497
  • William Dunlap, History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States, Dover Publications Inc. (New York, 1969), vol. I, p. 106
  • Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, Peter G. Huenink, Earl A. Powell III, Harry Z. Rand, and Nanette C. Sexton, American Art at Harvard, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), n.p., mentioned in entry for cat. 10
  • National Maritime Museum, London, 1776: The British Story of the American Revolution, exh. cat. (Greenwich, 1976), p. 208, ill.
  • The Martial Face: The Military Portrait in Britain 1760-1900, exh. cat., Brown University and David Winton Bell Gallery (Providence, RI, 1991), p. 99, no. 16c
  • Emily Ballew Neff, "John Singleton Copley: The Artist as 'Realist' and London Impresario" (1997), University of Texas at Austin, p. 195
  • Kimberly Orcutt, Process and Paradox: The Historical Pictures of John Singleton Copley, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2004), pp. 6-7, ill., 12
  • Emily Ballew Neff and Kaylin H. Weber, American Adversaries: West and Copley in a Transatlantic World, exh. cat., The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston, TX, 2013), pp. 216-218, fig. 206
  • Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. and Melissa Renn, American Paintings at Harvard, Volume One: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826, Yale University Press (U.S.) and Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge and New Haven, 2014), pp.154-156, cat. 96, ill.

Exhibition History

  • 1776, National Maritime Museum, London, London, 04/01/1976 - 10/01/1976
  • The Martial Face: the Military Portrait in Britain 1760-1900, David Winton Bell Gallery, Providence, 01/26/1991 - 03/03/1991
  • Process and Paradox: The Historical Pictures of John Singleton Copley, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 05/08/2004 - 08/29/2004
  • 32Q: 2240 18th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 08/06/2024; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/15/2016 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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