- Identification and Creation
- Physical Descriptions
- Mezzotint on paper mounted on canvas
- sheet: 59 × 78.2 cm (23 1/4 × 30 13/16 in.)
plate: 57.7 × 77 cm (22 11/16 × 30 5/16 in.)
framed: 83.8 × 104.3 × 4.1 cm (33 × 41 1/16 × 1 5/8 in.)
- Gardiner Greene, gift; to Harvard University, 1818
- State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
- ii (?)
- Standard Reference Number
- Le Bl. 36, Sm. 16
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from Harvard University, Gift of Gardiner Greene
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- European and American Art
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Label Text: The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 , written 2017
Copley and his fellow expatriate Benjamin West revolutionized the genre of history painting in the late 18th century by representing current events in grand, multifigure compositions—a style usually reserved for Classical or religious subjects. In 1818, Copley’s son-in-law, Gardiner Greene, donated several reproductive prints of the artist’s paintings in this new mode after Copley’s death.
The two prints displayed here commemorate important British military victories. In Victory of Lord Duncan (G5705), Copley focused on a famous moment of diplomatic gallantry, when a British admiral asked for his vanquished Dutch counterpart’s hand rather than his sword in surrender. The Siege and Relief of Gibraltar (G4896.A), based on Copley’s largest history painting, depicts Britain’s 1782 defeat of the French and Spanish assault on that land. Copley aspired to paint an accurate report of a specific moment in the battle; to that end, he incorporated life portraits of the officers who were present at the siege into the figural group at right. (Studies for some of these portraits can be found in Room 2240, on Level 2.) The composition also includes references to Classical sculptures: the figure standing with outstretched arm at left is modeled after the Apollo Belvedere.
- Publication History
Ethan Lasser, ed., The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2017), p. 135, Plate 71; p. 28, pp. 37-38 as part of Fig. 28 in Ethan W. Lasser's "Harvard's Teaching Cabinet"; p. 59 in María Dolores Sánchez-Jáuregui's "A Repository of Gifts"
- Exhibition History
The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/19/2017 - 12/31/2017; The Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow, 04/17/2018 - 07/15/2018
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