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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
1926.6.1

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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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