Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
Formal portrait of an older gentleman dressed in nineteenth-century black suit with tails and white shirt, looking at the viewer.

John Quincy Adams stands in a tall space on the left, next to a desk covered with dark green cloth. His high collared white shirt ties at the neck. He’s fair skinned with dark eyes, slightly ruddy complexion, partially balding, angular nose. His right hand rests on a small stack of books, his left hand at his side holds a rolled up paper. To the right behind him is an opening with pillars into a garden and landscape beyond with a dramatic sky. A white classical female statue on a pedestal outside can be seen beyond the pillars.

Gallery Text

This large, full-length portrait of the sixth president of the United States is the joint work of two major American artists. Gilbert Stuart painted Adams’s face, but died before he could complete the body. After his death, a group of prominent Bostonians prevailed on Thomas Sully, a young Philadelphia painter, to finish the picture. Sully traveled to Boston for this purpose in the summer of 1829. With the exception of Adams’s face, the entire portrait is the work of Sully.

The portrait was commissioned by Adams’s cousin, Ward Nicholas Boylston. A graduate and a supporter of Harvard, Boylston planned to bequeath the work to his alma mater, together with John Singleton Copley’s portrait of Adams’s father (John Adams, 1783). At Boylston’s request, Sully designed the portrait as a pendant to Copley’s, which is exhibited here to the right. The works have the same scale, share a composition and neoclassical style, and have similar background landscapes. They have been displayed together at locations across the Harvard campus since they arrived in 1828.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Gilbert Stuart, American (North Kingstown, RI 1755 - 1828 Boston, MA)
Thomas Sully, American (Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England 1783 - 1872 Philadelphia, PA)
John Quincy Adams, American (1767 - 1848)
John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
241.3 x 151.8 cm (95 x 59 3/4 in.)
framed: 273.4 x 184.2 x 11.4 cm (107 5/8 x 72 1/2 x 4 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l. : STUART. /1825./TS/1830.


Recorded Ownership History
Commissioned from the artist, 1825-1830; Ward Nicholas Boylston; his bequest to Harvard College, 1828.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard University Portrait Collection, Bequest of Ward Nicholas Boylston to Harvard College, 1828
Object Number
European and American Art

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.

Publication History

  • "The Crimson Party", Harvard Magazine (November-December 2000), p. 120., p. 120, ill.
  • John Langdon Sibley, Private Journal (John Langdon Sibley Papers), Unpublished (c. 1848), see entry for July 28, 1848
  • Thomas Sully, Thomas Sully's Private Journal, Unpublished (1879)
  • James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography, D. Appleton & Co. (New York, 1888), vol. 5, p. 729
  • George C. Mason, The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, NY, 1894), p. 126
  • William Garrott Brown, A List of Portraits in the Various Buildings of Harvard University, Harvard University Library (Cambridge, MA, 1898), p. 5
  • Lawrence Park, Gilbert Stuart: An lllustrated Descriptive List of His Works, vol. I - IV, W. E. Rudge (New York, NY, 1926), vol. I, pp. 95-96, no. 9
  • Laura M. Huntsinger, Harvard Portraits: A Catalogue of Portrait Paintings at Harvard University, ed. Alan Burroughs, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1936), p. 8
  • 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. 6, cat. 27
  • James Truslow Adams, Album of American History, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, NY, 1944), p. 207
  • American Peoples Encyclopedia, Spencer Press, Inc. (Chicago, IL, 1946)
  • Roger Butterfield, The American Past: A History of the United States from Concord to Hiroshima, 1775-1945, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY, 1947)
  • John D. Hicks, The Federal Union, Houghton Mifflin Company (Boston, MA, 1952)
  • William Harlan Hale, "John Quincy Adams as Ambassador to Russia", American Heritage (February 1958)
  • History of the United States, Time Inc. (New York, NY, 1962), Vol. 2
  • Margaret L. Coit, The Life History of the United States: Vol. 3: The Growing Years, Time Inc. (New York, NY, 1963), p.34
  • "U.S. Presidents", American Heritage (New York, NY, 1966)
  • Margaret Bassett, Profiles and Portraits: American Presidents and Their Wives, Bond Wheelwright Company (Freeport, ME, 1968)
  • Andrew Oliver, Portraits of John Quincy Adams and His Wife, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1970), pp. 122-133, fig. 57
  • National Portrait Gallery, The Life Portraits of John Quincy Adams, exh. cat. (Washington, DC, 1970), cat. 15
  • Louise Todd Ambler and Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, "American Painting at Harvard", Antiques (New York, NY, November 1972), vol. 102, no. 5, pp. 876-883, p. 876
  • 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), cat. 26, ill.
  • Marshall B. Davidson, The Artist's America, American Heritage Publishing Co. (New York, NY, 1973), p. 96
  • Louise Todd Ambler, "Faces from Harvard's Past", Harvard Magazine (Cambridge, MA, March-April 1978), Vol. 80, pp. 33-41
  • Gioconda Bianchi, American History, Istituto Geografico de Agostini-Novara (Milan, Italy, 1980)
  • Richard Alan Ryerson, ed., Adams Family Correspondence, Vol. 5, Belknap Press (Cambridge, MA, 1991)
  • Ernest R. May, The Making of the Monroe Doctrine, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1991)
  • Sandra Grindlay, "Harvard's Portraits: An American Treasure", Harvard University Art Museums Review (Fall 1992), vol. II, no. 1, pp. 6-7, p. 6
  • [Unidentified article], Congressional Quarterly (1992)
  • Greg Russell, John Quincy Adams and the Public Virtues of Diplomacy, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO, 1994), cover and frontispiece
  • David S. Grogan, John Quincy Adams, The History Project Inc. (Galax, Virginia, 1998), cover
  • David McCullough, John Adams, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY, 2001), fig 61
  • Daniel Preston, James Monroe: An Illustrated History, University of Mary Washington (Fredericksburg, VA, 2008), ill. p. 96
  • 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. 23, 463, 464-466, 473, cat. 431, ill.

Exhibition History

  • Exhibition of Paintings, 1831 (fifth exhibition), Boston Athenaeum, Boston, 01/01/1831 - 12/31/1831
  • American Art at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/19/1972 - 06/18/1972
  • 32Q: 2410 South Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 07/25/2022

Subjects and Contexts

  • Collection Highlights
  • Google Art Project

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