Bonhams American Art sale on May 21 will feature a long-lost 1771 portrait of Captain Gabriel Maturin by John Singleton Copley, one of approximately 25 portraits by the artist painted during his six-month sojourn in New York City four years prior to the American Revolution (est. $500,000-700,000). The portrait was recorded in Copley’s 1771 list of New York commissions, which is now in the National Archives, London. Long believed to have been lost, the painting was found in the US and identified in 2011 by an authority on military art and artifacts.
Copley’s brief stay in New York was the artist’s only venture outside of Boston prior to his permanent departure in 1774 for Italy, and ultimately London. In 1768 Copley painted a portrait of the New York-based Maj. Gen. Thomas Gage, Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Armed Forces in America, who had been called to Boston by the Townshend Act crisis. The connections then established by Copley among Gen. Gage’s staff led directly to a “List of Subscribers” for portraits from Gage’s immediate circle in New York, ensuring the artist’s trip there would be worthwhile.
Bonhams will offer Copley’s 1771 portrait of Captain Gabriel Maturin, Gen. Gage’s closest Aid de Camp and effectively his chief of staff, who came from a French Huguenot family by way of Ireland. Military service brought Maturin to New York in 1756, where he settled permanently and married into a New Jersey branch of the Livingston family. He remained in the American colonies for the rest of his life, and held a key role in the developments leading up to the outbreak of the Revolution. Capt. Maturin’s portrait and that of his American-born wife were among Copley’s most important New York commissions, heralding his first foray onto a more cosmopolitan world stage for his art.
Kayla Carlsen, Bonhams Senior Specialist in American Art, reflected on the portrait’s historical context: “Copley’s New York paintings are of special interest because they represent an aspect of American society now largely lost from view, namely the estimated one-third of the American populace that remained loyal to the King. Many of Copley’s portraits from this period were lost in the tumult of the American Revolutionary War, making this discovery all the more extraordinary.”
Bonhams is currently accepting consignments for the American Art sale on May 21. To have your work of art evaluated for inclusion in the auction, please contact the American Art department by calling 212 710 1307.