In the Fall 2012 Issue of ‘American Art’

Posted in journal articles by Editor on December 14, 2012

Ethan W. Lasser, “Selling Silver: The Business of Copley’s Paul Revere,” American Art 26 (Fall 2012): 26-43.

John Singleton Copley, Paul Revere, 1768. Oil on canvas, 35⅛ × 28½ in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Joseph W., William B., and Edward H. R. Revere.

John Singleton Copley, Paul Revere, 1768. Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Joseph W., William B., and Edward H. R. Revere (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

. . . Few examples of colonial American painting have been studied as extensively as Copley’s Paul Revere. Scholars have argued that the portrait depicts Revere in his workshop as he pauses while engraving a silver teapot and have proposed a range of explanations to account for this subject matter. They have analyzed Copley’s sources, searched for (and ultimately uncovered little) information about the commission of the portrait, and speculated about the connection between the painting and Revere’s radical politics[note 2]. But interpreters have yet to consider seriously the connection between the portrait and the increasingly dire state of Revere’s financial affairs. Though Copley depicted the silversmith plying his trade, the bottom-line realities of this trade have been left out of the story of this iconic painting [p. 27]. . . .

My interpretation will draw on two different types of evidence. First is the portrait itself. Paul Revere is a far richer and more singular work than past scholars have acknowledged. While many writers have discussed the subject matter of the painting, few have seriously explored the portrait’s exceptional
composition. . . .

Since this is an image of a craftsman that emphasizes artisanal practice, questions about the processes of making, raising, and decorating silver teapots will also figure centrally in my account. In the period when Copley painted Paul Revere, elites grew increasingly interested in and familiar with artisanal materials and techniques [p. 28]. . . .

In proposing Paul Revere as such a strategic image, my argument locates the portrait within a broader field of eighteenth-century painting that functioned to promote the wares of particular retailers and artisans. This field includes genre paintings like Jean-Antoine Watteau’s iconic Shop Sign [p. 29] . . .

The full article is available here (J-Stor subscription required)

Call for Papers | Traces of Early America

Posted in Calls for Papers, graduate students by Editor on December 14, 2012

Traces of Early America: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference
The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 26-28 September 2013

Proposals due by 15 March 2013

Scholars encounter early America through its traces, the vestiges and fragments left behind. And in reconstructing the fleeting and ephemeral, scholars also attempt to trace early American encounters. This conference will bring together graduate students from a wide variety of disciplines to explore the various meanings of traces—as material objects, cultural representations, and academic practices. Papers might consider how people deliberately and unwittingly left traces as they moved through space and time; what traces or remnants of the past get privileged while others are marginalized or occluded; how written, visual, and other texts are both material objects and traces of lives and experiences; and where we look for the traces of different communities and conflicts in early America. More generally, papers might address tracing as a method of historical inquiry, one that both uncovers and constitutes objects and archives, as well as the methodological traces that have reconfigured early American studies, such as Atlantic history, diaspora studies, hemispheric studies, and circum-Caribbean and Latin American studies.

We welcome applicants from a wide variety of disciplines—among them history, literature, gender studies, ethnic studies, anthropology, archeology, geography, art history, material culture, religious studies, and political science—whose work deals with the histories and cultures of North American and the Atlantic world before 1850. Applicants should email their proposals to mceas.traces.2013@gmail.com by March 15, 2013. Proposals should include an abstract of no more than 250 words along with a one-page c.v. Paper presentations should be no more than 20 minutes. Limited financial support is available for participants’ travel expenses. Decisions will be announced by May 15, 2013.

Any conference-related questions can be directed to: mceas.traces.2013@gmail.com.

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