Portrait of Mrs. James Warren, by John Singleton Copley
Welcome to Artistic Insight’s ‘Who Wore it Best?’ art history version! At first glance you might assume these are all the same women, posing for different portraits. However, it is three women painted in the same dress by the same American portrait artist. This particular painting is the ‘Portrait of Mrs. James Warren’ painted by John Singleton Copley (1738–1815), in the year of 1763.
The owner of the dress is believed to have been that of Mrs. Mercy Warren. Mrs. Warren sent off her beloved dress to friends Mrs. Benjamin Pickman (Mary Toppan) and Mrs. Daniel Sargent (Mary Turner), setting the scene for an 18th century version of ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Gown.’
The symbol of this dress
By focusing on this gown, we can observe a little of the personality of the women, and their relationships. Mrs. Warren herself was depicted in an acceptable mantronly manner. Her dress is adorned with a more modest lace shawl. When viewing the portraits of Mrs. Pickman and Mrs. Daniel, women younger than the dress loaner, we can see the difference in presentation. They accentuate the low cut of the gown, relating to their youth. Mrs Sargent is displayed with a lovely collar while Mrs. Pickman substitutes in a matching blue umbrella for decoration. They may seem to be subtle changes but they do successfully allude to each individual.
The Portrait of Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis) is currently in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Mrs. Daniel Sargent (Mary Turner) portrait is located in the de Young collection, while the portrait of Mrs. Benjamin Pickman (Mary Toppan) is on view at the Yale University Art Gallery.
- Museum of Fine Art, Boston. (n.d). Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis). Retrieved from: https://collections.mfa.org/objects/32409
- Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. (n.d). Mrs. Daniel Sargent (Mary Turner). Retrieved from: https://art.famsf.org/john-singleton-copley/mrs-daniel-sargent-mary-turner-1979731
- Yale University Art Gallery. (n.d). AMERICAN PAINTINGS AND SCULPTURE. Retrieved from: https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/8802