CHARLOTTE, NC.- The Mint Museum
has acquired an early 19th century portrait by John Singleton Copley, one of the greatest and most influential painters in colonial America. St. Cecilia, a Portrait (Mrs. Richard Crowninshield Derby) (1803) is the first painting by Copley to enter the Mints collection. The painting and its original period frame were donated by longtime Museum supporters Dr. and Mrs. Henry C. Landon III of Wilmington, N.C.
Born in Boston in 1738, John Singleton Copley quickly rose to become the preeminent portrait painter in the American colonies. He began to garner critical attention in 1766 when his portrait of Henry Pelham was exhibited to great acclaim in London. In 1774, the artist moved overseas permanently to further his career and escape the escalating conflict in America.
St. Cecilia, a Portrait portrays Martha Crowninshield Derby, an American expatriate living in London, as Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Surrounded by luxurious furnishings and wearing a fashionable empire-waist dress, Mrs. Derby demonstrates her musical talents by playing a harpan instrument chosen to echo her graceful figure and emphasize her slender fingersas she is gazed upon by adoring cherubs. Copley likely created this work in response to earlier versions of women posed as St. Cecilia by his rival Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Measuring 92 by 58 inches, the painting is one of the largest paintings in the American art collection. Currently on display at the Mint Museum of Art on Randolph Road, it will be reinstalled as part of the Museums holdings of Colonial and Federal portraiture in the new Mint Museum Uptown, scheduled to open in October 2010.
The Mint Museum acquired the Copley painting as part of its collections campaign to enhance its holdings through donations of significant artworks or financial contributions dedicated to acquiring masterworks of art and craft. Through the collections campaign, to date the Mint has acquired more than 200 works in its artistic focus areas of American Art, Art of the Ancient Americas, Contemporary Art, Craft + Design, Decorative Arts and Historic Costume & Fashionable Dress.