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Identification and Creation

Object Number
John Singleton Copley, American (Boston, MA 1738 - 1815 London, England)
John Winthrop (1714-1779)
John Winthrop (1714-1779)
Work Type
c. 1773
Creation Place: North America, United States, Massachusetts
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
127.5 x 102.1 cm (50 3/16 x 40 3/16 in.)
framed: 155.6 x 121.3 x 11.4 cm (61 1/4 x 47 3/4 x 4 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
By descent through family to Henry G. Andrews, before 1845; Mrs. James (Sarah) Andrews, before 1853; Col. John Winthrop, her nephew and sitter's great grandson, Newport, 1853; gift of his executors and the heirs of Mrs. Andrews to Harvard, 1894.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard University Portrait Collection, Gift to Harvard College by the executors of the estate of John Winthrop and heirs of Mrs. Andrews, 1894
Object Number
European and American Art

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John Winthrop was the Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard from 1738 to 1779. Copley depicted him holding in his hand a diagram showing the transit of Venus which he observed in 1761. The brass portable Cassegrain reflecting telescope on the table to his left was made by the London instrument maker James Short circa 1758. The telescope was Winthrop's personal property and was given to the College after his death in 1779, and is now in the University's Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.

Publication History

  • 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. 124
  • William Garrott Brown, A List of Portraits in the Various Buildings of Harvard University, Harvard University Library (Cambridge, MA, 1898), p. 45
  • Frank William Bayley, A Sketch of the Life and a List of Some of the Works of John Singleton Copley, The Garden Press, W. B. Libby (Boston, MA, 1910), p. 123
  • 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. 258-259
  • Cuthbert Lee, Early American Portrait Painters: The Fourteen Principal Earliest Native-born Painters, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT, 1929), p. 74
  • Theodore Bolton and Henry Lorin Binsse, "John Singleton Copley", The Antiquarian (New York, NY, December 1930), pp. 116-118., p. 116
  • Laura M. Huntsinger, Harvard Portraits: A Catalogue of Portrait Paintings at Harvard University, ed. Alan Burroughs, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1936), p . 150, ill. p. 151
  • Barbara N. Parker and Anne Bolling Wheeler, John Singleton Copley: American Portraits in Oil, Pastel and Miniature, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1938), pp. 209-210, pl. 114
  • Historical Records Survey, Division of Professional and Service Projects, Works Progress Administration, American Portraits, 1620-1825, found in Massachusetts, Volumes 1 and 2, Historical Records Survey (Boston, MA, 1939), p. 477, cat. 2527
  • James Thomas Flexner, John Singleton Copley, Houghton Mifflin Company (Boston, 1948), pp. 57, 131, pl. 16
  • Lawrence Shaw Mayo, The Winthrop Family in America, Massachusetts Historical Society (Boston, MA, 1948), pp. 189-190, ill. opp. p. 168
  • From Colony to Nation: Exhibition of American Painting, Silver, and Architecture from 1650 to the War of 1812, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 1949), pp. 31-32, cat. 39
  • Harvey Wish, Society and Thought in Early America: A Social and Intellectual History of the American People through 1865, Longmans, Green and Co. (New York, NY, 1950), ill. between pp. 116-117 in "18th century" plates
  • Harvard University, Winthrop Family Portraits at Harvard: John Winthrop House, Harvard University, brochure (Cambridge, MA, April 1956), p. 7, ill. opp. p. 3
  • "Winthrop Gift", Harvard Alumni Bulletin, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, June 5, 1965), pp. 669-670
  • John Singleton Copley, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C, 1965), pp. 74, 76, cat. 54, ill.
  • Max Savelle, Seeds of Liberty: The Genesis of the American Mind, University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA, 1965), p. 91, ill.
  • Jules David Prown, John Singleton Copley, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1966), vol. 1, pp. 89, 116, 235, pl. 328
  • Louise Todd Ambler, Early Science at Harvard: Innovators and Their Instruments, 1765 - 1865, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, December 1969-January 1970), pp. 6-7, 74, cat. 6, ill.
  • Robert Plate, John Singleton Copley: America's First Great Artist, David McKay (New York, NY, 1969), p. 84
  • Louise Todd Ambler, Benjamin Franklin: A Perspective, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1975), pp. 45-46, 111, cat. 14, ill.
  • Linda Ayres, Harvard Divided, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1976), pp. 165-166, cat. 98, ill.
  • Robert F. Perkins, Jr. and William J. Gavin, III, Boston Athenaeum Art Exhibition Index, 1827-1874, The Library of the Boston Athenaeum (Boston, MA, 1980), p. 39
  • H. Graham Lowry, How the Nation Was Won, Executive Intelligence Review (Washington, D.C., 1987), ill. p. 334
  • E.A. Winfred Bernhard, "Vita: John Winthrop", Harvard Magazine (Cambridge, MA, September-October 1990), pp. 51-53, pp. 52-53, ill.
  • Alan Miller, "Roman Gusto in New England: An Eighteenth-Century Boston Furniture Designer and His Shop", American Furniture, Chipstone Foundation (Milwaukee, 1993), p. 170, fig. 12 [frame is ill.]
  • Carrie Rebora and Paul J. Staiti, John Singleton Copley in America, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, 1995), pp. 86, 151, 316
  • Ned Landsman, From Colonials to Provincials: American Thought and Culture, 1680-1760, Twayne Publishers (New York, 1997), ill. p. 136
  • "Franklin and His Friends", Invention and Technology, American Heritage (New York, NY, Fall 1999), vol. 15, pp. 28-33, p. 33
  • "Franklin the Researcher", New York Times, New York Times (New York, NY, April 13, 1999), sec. F, p. 5, p. 5
  • Brandon B. Fortune, Franklin & His Friends: Portraying the Man of Science in Eighteenth-Century America, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC, 1999), p. 66, fig. 5-1, pp. 84-89
  • 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. 144-145, cat. 90, ill.
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Ivan Gaskell, Sara Schechner, and Sarah Anne Carter, Tangible Things: Making History through Objects, Oxford University Press (NY) (New York, 2015), p. 182, repr. as fig. 143
  • Harvard & The Legacy of Slavery, website, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, April 25, 2022, p. 67, 128

Exhibition History

  • Boston Athenaeum Second Exhibition of Paintings, 1828, Boston Athenaeum, Boston, 05/01/1828 - 12/31/1828
  • From Colony to Nation, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 04/20/1949 - 06/19/1949
  • The American Spirit in Portraiture, 1675 - 1900, Fogg Art Museum, 01/19/1951 - 02/24/1951
  • John Singleton Copley, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 09/18/1965 - 10/31/1965; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 11/20/1965 - 01/02/1966; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 01/22/1966 - 03/06/1966
  • Early Science at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 12/18/1969 - 02/01/1970
  • Benjamin Franklin: A Perspective, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/17/1975 - 09/22/1975
  • Harvard Divided, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/03/1976 - 10/10/1976
  • Franklin & His Friends: Portraying the Man of Science in Eighteenth-Century America, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, 04/16/1999 - 09/06/1999

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at