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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: 18th century: Mary Hopkinson
Mary Hopkinson

Mary Hopkinson
about 1764
Studio of Benjamin West
oil on canvas
50 3/8 x 38 1/8 in. (127.8 x 96.9 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, George Buchanan Coale Collection


Hear more about Mary Hopkinson 1.6MB

Mary Hopkinson was the wife of Dr. John Morgan, chief surgeon of the Continental army and founder of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. In a letter to his mother-in-law, Morgan praised his wife as “an excellent companion at all times . . . full of spirits.” In this portrait, Mary holds a mandolin, a fashionable instrument for aristocratic ladies. She wears a lavish pink satin gown with a sable collar and pearls that adorn her sleeves and hair. This outfit was not typical dress for colonial women, but was invented by the artist to conjure eighteenth-century European tastes for all things related to the “Orient.” (Reinhardt, “The Work of Fancy and Taste,” Dress, vol. 29, 2002) Benjamin West painted this portrait from a miniature of Mary that her husband brought with him during his visit to London in 1764.

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