National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Elizabeth Gray Otis (Mrs. Samuel Alleyne Otis) John Singleton Copley (painter)
American, 1738 - 1815
Elizabeth Gray Otis (Mrs. Samuel Alleyne Otis), c. 1764
oil on canvas
overall: 78.7 x 69.2 cm (31 x 27 1/4 in.) framed: 92.7 x 83.8 x 7.6 cm (36 1/2 x 33 x 3 in.)
Gift of the Honorable and Mrs. Robert H. Thayer
On View
From the Tour: John Singleton Copley
Object 4 of 12


The sitter's grandson, James William Otis [1800-1869], New York;[1] his son, William Church Otis [1831-1889], Nahant, Massachusetts;[2] his son, Harrison Gray Otis [1856-1915], Nahant and Needham, Massachusetts;[3] his son William Alleyne Otis, [b. 1895], Boston.[4] His cousin Robert Helyer Thayer [1901-1984] and Virginia Pratt Thayer [Mrs. Robert Helyer Thayer, d. 1979], Washington, D.C.;[5] bequest 1980 to NGA.

[1] The presumed provenance is from the sitter to her son Harrison Gray Otis [1765-1848], father of James William Otis, first owner of record (1853); see William A. Otis, A Genealogical and Historical Memoir of the Otis Family in America, (Chicago, 1924), 106, 141, 202. This portrait shares its provenance with those of the sitter's father Harrison Gray by Copley [NGA 1976.25.1] and husband Samuel Alleyne Otis by Gilbert Stuart [NGA 1980.11.2].

[2] Augustus Thorndike Perkins, A Sketch of the Life and a List of Some of the Works of John Singleton Copley, (Boston, 1873), 68; for William's dates see Otis 1924, 341.

[3] Clarence Winthrop Bowen, The History of the Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington as First President of the United States, (New York, 1892), 517; Frank W. Bayley, The Life and Works of John Singleton Copley, (Boston, 1915), 123. For Harrison's dates and places of residence see Otis 1924, 495. Records in the registrar's office, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, show that the painting was owned from 1917 to 1926 by Robert H. Gardiner, Robert H. Gardiner, Jr., and William Tudor Gardiner (Jennifer Abel, letter, 14 November 1990, in NGA curatorial files), perhaps as trustees or executors of the estate of Harrison Gray Otis.

[4] Barbara Neville Parker and Anne Bolling Wheeler, John Singleton Copley: American Portraits in Oil, Pastel, and Miniature with Biographical Sketches, (Boston, 1938), 88; for William's birthdate see Otis 1924, 608.

[5] Otis 1924, 496. Thayer was the son of Harrison Gray Otis' sister Violet Otis Thayer. The painting was delivered to the Thayers on 22 June 1949 by the Museum of Fine Arts on the authority of William A. Otis. Thayer is in Who's Who in America, 38th ed. (Chicago, 1974), 3056, and The New York Times Biographical Service 15 (1984), 143. Mrs. Thayer's date of death is in the NGA curatorial file. A copy was painted for the donors by Adrian Lamb in 1976.

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