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Seeing America

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Unfinished Portrait of Nathaniel Hurd (1729-1777)

ca. 1765
29 3/8 x 24 5/8 in. (74.6 x 62.5 cm)

John Singleton Copley
United States (Boston, MA?, 1738 - 1815, London, England)

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1944.2
Location: Currently on view
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Nathaniel Hurd (1730-1778), silversmith, goldsmith, and engraver, was a member of a distinguished Boston family of silversmiths. In addition to creating a number of silver pieces, he was well-known for his bookplates, which were designed for many distinguished colonial families including Loyalists and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and were based on heraldic motifs (to which they may or may not have been entitled). Hurd also designed a plate for his own family, as well as bookplates for both Harvard and Dartmouth Colleges. The bookplates provide an unusual link to the social and intellectual climate of the times, and literally speak volumes about sociocultural aspirations of eighteenth-century America.

Hurd was a contemporary of Copley’s. This ca. 1765 portrait, Copley’s first to depict a fellow artisan in working costume, had been preceded by an earlier miniature that Copley had painted of Hurd in 1755.

[Gallery label text, 1996]

Nathaniel Hurd, Boston, MA; bequeathed to his sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. John Furness; descended through their family to Horace Howard Furness Jayne, Wallingford, PA; M. Knoedler & Co., New York; purchased from them by the Gallery in 1944

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About Face: Copley’s Portrait of a Colonial Silversmith About Face: Copley’s Portrait of a Colonial Silversmith explores the lives and work of two artists within colonial Boston prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution: painter John Singleton Copley and silversmith Nathaniel Hurd. In addition to focusing upon paintings by Copley and silver pieces by Hurd, these works and other objects put into context the daily life of colonial Boston. Primary source documents (art works, objects, and written texts) provide students with a view of the experiences of men and women who were alive around the time of the American Revolution.

Students will develop critical looking and thinking skills as they gain experience in interpreting historical documents; analyze different interpretations of a key political turning point in American history through the study of visual and written documents of the Boston Massacre; explore important social issues through portraiture.; and evaluate the colonial American economy through primary source documents, like Nathaniel Hurd’s Table of Conversions and a colonial coin.
Seeing America Inservice Materials from a teacher in-service presentation Spring 2008
Seeing America Chapter on Copley's Unfinished Portrait of Nathaniel Hurd, written by Marjorie B. Searl.
MAGexplore MAGexplore provides in-depth information and close looking at over 200 objects in MAG's collection.
Nathaniel Hurd Finished portrait of Nathaniel Hurd at the Cleveland Museum of Art

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