It’s In the Eyes. Or the Lips.

Did you get a chance to look at the picture of Margaret Kemble Gage in yesterday’s post?

Gave me the chills.

Those eyes spoke of intelligence. The way the lips were skewed gave me a start. I felt like I knew something of her that I didn’t learn from the research I did. The painter, John Singleton Copley, managed to give us a window into her thoughts and emotions by portraying what he saw as she sat for him. Perhaps if I were an artist this wouldn’t strike me as so amazing. Or maybe it would.

I’ve seen several of Copley’s paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but I’m not sure I’ve ever done more than scan them as I moved through the room. Now, I want to go back to take a closer look.

But that isn’t going to happen right away and I’m impatient, so  I went on the website,, to take a closer look at his portraits.

I lifted a few of them from the website to give you a peek too. The captions are my first reactions to each portrait. My captions in no way represent the actual person (except the names are correct) or what Copley was thinking when he painted them. Purely my interpretations.

Frances Montresor. She's done this before; gives off an air of comfort in her aristocratic position.


John Hancock. Is he day-dreaming? Or maybe he's a little crazy?


Mrs. Clark Gayton. Come hither. Not revealing anything more until you do.


Clark Gayton, Admiral of the White. A lot on my shoulders; finish the damn painting, so I can get back to work.


Mrs. Jabez Bowen. I have more important things to attend to than standing for a portrait.


Epes Sargent II. I am your man, whatever you're about to do. Good-looking dude, I might add.


Do you see what I mean about the intelligence and emotion in their faces? What do you think about these portraits? About John Singleton Copley? About other portrait artists?


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16 thoughts on “It’s In the Eyes. Or the Lips.

  1. I may be at a disadvantage here, Sara, since I didn’t read yesterday’s post until after I read today’s.

    You reference Elizabeth Gage, but yesterday’s post is about Margaret Kemble Gage? So, I may be looking at the wrong picture, but I looked at it and considered her soul without knowledge of the previous post.

    Margaret looks to me like she’s a bit bored, dissatisfied, and yes, intelligent, with little or no outlet as per the confines of womanhood in her time.

    A rendezvous of any kind, for any reason, be it espionage or tryst, would appeal, I’d think. An opportunity to exercise her wit and cunning. In my books, that’s not rebellion, that’s desperation.

    I do like your captions. Your insights seem bang on, although I suspect there may have been a foul odour in the air at the time Frances Montresor posed for her portrait.

    And, is it me, or did your layout change?

    1. Will you be my editor please? It’s Margaret Kemble Gage. I’m sure I was so tired when I typed this post that I called her Elizabeth. No excuse for it other than spaciness.

      I love your insights about Margaret from her picture. And I too think she’d definitely want to be in the game, not just on the sidelines. Although hubby did sideline her after this event. Frances Montresor does have a bit of the snob in her.

      Yes. Layout changed. Do you like it?

  2. I love this! Do these portraits ever have attitude and unique characters.

    I always like to work from a picture when I’m developing a new character. It’s interesting how so many pictures are not right, then I find one that is exactly like the character I’ve envisioned. I find it easier to describe physical details when I go from a picture.

    1. I’ve never worked from a picture for character study but I love the idea. Where do you look for the right pictures?

  3. I love your captions. They capture almost exactly what I was thinking as I looked at the paintings. The artist sure had a way of conveying his subject’s personality in the portraits.

  4. This is really fun! I like the way you examined these portraits and speculated on their subjects. Some portraits seem dull, but these ones, especially those of the women, are full of life, unspoken sarcasm, and personality. Love it!

    1. He really does bring life to his subjects. I have to remind myself to slow down and look at things so I can notice such things. 🙂

  5. Interesting how we read people’s faces. I saw them a little differently. It would be interesting to put up one of Copley’s paintings and have every one that comments tell what they see in the faces.

    I saw Margaret Gage as bored and dissatisfied–just waiting to get into trouble. I read it not only on her face but in the way Copley painted her slouched posture.

    1. That would be an interesting exercise. I do think we all see things differently, even when an artist or writer does a good job conveying their perspective. We all bring ourselves into the observation, which makes it all the more interesting. Thanks for your comments, Cora.

  6. Cool take on the pics! And yes, I agree that the last dude was pretty handsome, but what’s up with that ridiculous hairstyle? Is it possible that anyone anywhere at any time thought that was attractive?!

    1. Men and wigs is a trend that should never return (I think that and my once thick blond locked husband is pretty much bald). I had fun with the captions.

  7. Copley is a fantastic artist. He was an expert at capturing the micro expressions in the face that tell the story. It is really hard to do. My hobby is figurative and portrait painting so I can attest to the difficulty in capturing the soul of the person you are painting.

    Your captions cracked me up. Thanks for my laugh for the day.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I am in awe of artists. I think that even if you are talented, it takes so much skill to communicate through images like that. I’ve taken a few studio figurative drawing and painting classes myself, and loved them, BUT I don’t think I have what it takes and that, I find to be very frustrating. Glad I gave you a laugh!

So what do you think?