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Life (sort of) After Death

Thursday - 04/22/2021 — There are lots of portraits of dead people out there, but years ago when I visited the North Carolina Museum of Art, I was struck by this one. John Singleton Copley painted the family of Sir William Pepperill. Before reading the tag that identified the subject of the painting, I had the audacity to criticize the technique. “The woman looks like she’s dead,” I complained.


A nearby docent spoke up and said, “That’s because she was dead when Copley painted the family.” When Copley left the colonies at the beginning of the revolution, he was commissioned by Sir William to paint the entire family. “The portrait Sir William commissioned from Copley is an elaborate fiction, the family made whole again. For the grieving widower and his children, the painting offered a comforting vision of what might have been had not war and death come knocking.”


What do you think? If you were in a similar situation, do you think you’d be comforted or repelled by this ghost-like rendition of Mom?




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