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Copley Painting Stays in Philadelphia

John Singleton Copley, Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Mifflin

John Singleton Copley's Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Mifflin (Sarah Morris), the premier colonial-era portraitist's only depiction of Philadelphia subjects, will have a new home in the city where it has been for over two centuries. The historic agreement has been unanimously approved at meetings of the respective boards of trustees of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania--the Portrait's present owner--and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Historical Society will be joined by the Museum in a petition to the Orphans Court in Philadelphia, seeking approval of the agreement. The Museum's commitment to raise the funds for this historic transaction has been launched by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Fitz Eugene Dixon, Jr., in addition to income from the George W. Elkins and W. P. Wilstach endowed purchase funds for Museum acquisitions.

"As The Historical Society moves towards realizing its goal of becoming an outstanding special collections library, we are committed to finding appropriate new homes for the art and artifacts from the collection," said Howard H. Lewis, Chairman of the Society's Board of Trustees. "The Society's Board feels strongly that the Copley portrait should remain in Philadelphia, where it will be seen by the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Art Museum each year."

The double portrait, painted by Copley in 1773, depicts Thomas Mifflin, who served as Pennsylvania's first governor after American independence, and his wife, Sarah Morris. It has been on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1997, where it is currently on view in gallery 290.

"We are deeply grateful to The Historical Society of Pennsylvania for making possible this wonderful opportunity to keep a masterpiece with profound Pennsylvania resonance in Philadelphia in perpetuity. Copley's Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Mifflin represents, as a great work of art, a seminal flowering of artistic achievement in what was soon to become the United States, and the Mifflins themselves embody many of the political, cultural and economic currents of the decade leading up to independence. The Museum's distinguished collections of American art, and indeed international art of the 18th century, are greatly enriched by the Copley Portrait, as are the collections' relevance to the rich cultural history of Pennsylvania," notes Anne d'Harnoncourt, The George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This collegial agreement between two Philadelphia institutions, which strengthens both The Historical Society and the Museum, is in many ways a sequel to the 1984-85 agreements between the Museum and The Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts, by which the Academy's distinguished collections of European old master prints and drawings were transferred to the Museum in exchange for a group of American paintings and funds contributed to the Museum by Mr. and Mrs. Philip I. Berman.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 9/20/10


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