John Singleton Copley (American, 1737-1815) Portrait of Captain Gabriel Maturin 36 x 28in

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Lot 28
John Singleton Copley
(American, 1737-1815)
Portrait of Captain Gabriel Maturin 36 x 28in
US$ 500,000 - 700,000
£ 380,000 - 530,000

American Art

21 May 2014, 14:00 EDT

New York

Lot Details
John Singleton Copley (American, 1737-1815) Portrait of Captain Gabriel Maturin 36 x 28in
John Singleton Copley (American, 1737-1815)
Portrait of Captain Gabriel Maturin
oil on canvas
36 x 28in
Painted in 1771


    Captain Gabriel Maturin, New York, commissioned from the artist, 1771
    Mary Livingston Maturin Mallet, New York, widow of the above, by descent, 1774
    Reverend Henry Maturin, Ireland, by descent, 1830
    Reverend Edmund Maturin, Ireland, by descent, 1842
    Oscar Frederick Livingston, New York, acquired from the above, 1868
    Leta Nichols Livingston Clews, New York, by descent, 1901
    R. Livingston Sullivan, Radnor, Pennsylvania, by descent, 1919
    Lieutenant General Milton G. Baker, Radnor, Pennsylvania, gift from the above, circa 1950
    Rev. Dr. Lt. Col. Josephine Louise Redenious Baker, Radnor, Pennsylvania, by descent, 1976
    Sale, Freeman's Auctioneers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 13 April 2011
    Acquired by the present owner from the above

    J.D. Prown, John Singleton Copley, vol. 1, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1966, p. 223.
    C. Bryant, "A Lost Copley found: The New York Portrait of Captain Gabriel Maturin (1730-1774)," The Magazine ANTIQUES, November/December, 2012, 179, no. 6, pp. 150-153, illustrated.

    By the time John Singleton Copley came to New York in 1771 he was the most successful portrait painter ever seen in the American colonies. Having produced commissions for some of the wealthiest and most respected residents of Massachusetts, Copley was enjoying a sufficient living and wide acclaim, and yet his artistic ambition had become restless within the confines of Boston. As he struggled to decide whether to put his prowess to the ultimate test in London, he was unsure how well he might fare among the heady competition and surroundings of the artistic and social center of the English speaking world. New York would provide an obvious trial run for Copley, where he might try his hand with its wealthy and more cosmopolitan clientele, and cultivate his connections within the base of the colonial administration in the colonies.

    In exploration of this new market in New York, Copley received encouragement and direction from Lt. Gen. Hon. Thomas Gage, who, as Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Forces in America, was probably the single most important man in the American colonies. Gage's administration was based in New York, but when he and his staff had been called to Boston in 1768 to respond to the Townshend Act crisis, he had commissioned Copley to paint his portrait. This prominent connection ensured success for Copley in New York, resulting in a petition of sitters (most of whom were friends and relations of Gage and his staff) who subscribed in the spring of 1771 to have their portrait painted by the notable artist should he travel to New York for the purpose.
    As a result, Copley would spend six months working in New York (from June to December of 1771) and finish approximately twenty-five commissioned portraits – the only significant body of work presented by the artist outside of Boston before he ultimately left for London in 1774. The figures Copley painted in New York, although closely aligned with the British colonial administration, were largely American, either by birth or by having previously adopted permanent residency in the Colonies. The list of originally subscribed sitters (which still exists in the National Archives, London) includes the original specifications for these advance commissions, but is lacking in some known additions and changes which inevitably occurred after the artist began work in New York that June.
    The present work, Captain Gabriel Maturin, is listed fourth on the existing subscriber's list. Maturin's connection to Gen. Thomas Gage is noteworthy and directly explains his presence on Copley's list of commissions. Like many of the other sitters on the list, Captain Maturin, who was from a French Huguenot family that settled in Ireland, had every intention of spending the rest of his natural life in America. After his arrival in America in 1756 and distinguished service at the Battle of Quebec in 1759, he began his service on Gage's staff in 1760 as the General's military secretary – a key position as essentially Gage's closest aid and chief of staff. After Gage and Maturin settled permanently in New York City in 1763, Gabriel married into a New Jersey branch of the Livingston family, and began to invest in land grants upstate. As Gen. Gage's senior staff officer, Capt. Maturin would have been intimately involved in the formulation and execution of Gage's responses to the deepening crisis as the patriot elements of the American colonies moved toward open rebellion.
    When General Gage was additionally appointed Governor of Massachusetts in 1774 to stay the impending conflict, Captain Maturin's renowned tact, discretion and forbearance were put to the ultimate test in his role as the principal spokesman for Gage's administration. His wife, Mary Livingston Maturin, who had sailed north from New York in September with her childhood friend Margaret Kemble Gage, joined him in Boston.
    Throughout 1774 the town was a powder keg waiting only a spark of provocation. Although the armed conflict did not break out until after Captain Maturin's death from pneumonia on December 15, 1774, his health had doubtlessly been strained by his difficult position as principal interlocutor between the increasingly irrevocably polarized sides of the conflict. Maturin had toiled to forestall the outbreak of war right up to the day of his death. Diplomatic to the last, "he did not fail sending supplicatory notes to all the Congregations in town yesterday" (W. Sargent, ed., Letters of John Andrews, Esq. of Boston, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1865, n.p.).
    General Gage abandoned official protocol and ordered a massive funeral procession through Boston for his dear friend, as recorded in the diary of John Rowe (Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Massachusetts):
    I attended the Funeral of Mr. Maturin the Generals Secretary The Procession as Follows ----

    First part of the 4th Regiment under Arms ---

    Then the Band of Musick---

    Then the Clergy ---- Then the Corps---

    Then the Generall & his Family
    [i.e. his staff]

    Then the 4th Regiment with Arms

    Then the Officers of the Army

    & afterwards the Gentleman of the Town"

    Maturin's obituary (New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, January 2, 1775, n.p.), spoke of his character:

    "A virtuous and liberal Education, joined to an innate Prudence and Decency of Behaviour, distinguished him in his Employment as Secretary, which he discharged several Years past with eminent Abilities, unshaken Integrity, and impenetrable Secrecy. His social, gentlemanly, and hospitable Virtues, endeared him to all who had the Pleasure of his Acquaintance. The General laments the Loss of his faithful Friend and Servant; and a most amiable Wife is left to deplore her unspeakable Loss, in the Bereavement of the most affectionate, polite, tender and indulgent Husband. Capt. Maturin was a younger Son of the late Revd. Dean Maturin, of St. Patrick's, Dublin."

    Gabriel Maturin's situation and circumstances as essentially an immigrant American with close ties to both the patriot and loyalist sides of the conflict may have served to inform his perspective around the internecine and often familial aspects of the growing American conflict and eventual civil war. His wife's family, the Livingston's, were closely associated with the rebel cause, his brother-in-law Lt. Col. William Smith Livingston became a noted patriot war hero and her uncle William Smith, became Chief Justice of New York with liberal whig sympathies. Smith was courted by both sides and wrote several times to his nephew Captain Maturin to try and use his influence with General Gage to avoid any provocation that might touch off the impending Revolution.

    When Copley painted the present work, he was also commissioned to paint Captain Maturin's "amiable wife" Mary Livingston Maturin. Jules Prown listed this work under the title Mary Livingston Mallet for the hitherto unnoticed circumstance. Four years after Captain Maturin's unexpected death in 1774, Mary remarried Dr. Jonathan Mallet, another member of General Gage's staff who also happened to be the next sitter on Copley's 1771 Subscriber list. In 1784 the Mallets left New York as part of the Loyalist exodus for London, taking their Copley portraits with them. Upon Mary's death in 1830, she bequeathed her late husband Gabriel's portrait by Copley to his nephew in Ireland. Gabriel Maturin's portrait returned to New York in 1868 but remained in private ownership and unlocated until 2011, when it resurfaced and was identified as the missing portrait of "Captain Maturin" mentioned in Copley's 1771 subscriber list. The portrait depicts Captain Maturin in the regulation uniform of a General's Aide de Camp and happens to be one of only four known 1771 New York works painted by Copley in the larger format (36" x 28") known as "kit-cat."
    During conservation a stenciled stamp mark of a Georgian crown over a "GR" cypher was revealed on the back of the original canvas. This is a rare surviving example of an actual tax stamp imposed as a result of Parliament's 1765 Stamp Act on all British manufactured linen imported to the American Colonies, and thus an actual example of one of the catalysts for the outbreak of the Revolution.
    The present work retains a carved and gilded rococo-style frame specially commissioned as an exact replica of the surviving circa 1771 New York frame originally made for the portrait of Mary Livingston Maturin, as the pair to Gabriel Maturin's portrait. This original frame, the only known to survive from any of Copley's New York portraits, presently resides in the Dietrich American Foundation Collection.
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