Edward Nightingale


John Smibert ( American, 1688 - 1751 )

c. 1722–1724
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General Description

Edward Nightingale's informal gray dressing gown indicates that he is a man of leisure and, therefore, wealth and education. He sits in his library deep in thought, a pose typically associated with literary figures. Since gentlemen of his time shaved their heads and wore wigs, it is not unusual for Nightingale to wear a turban to protect his head from the cold while relaxing informally at home. Nightingale, a Cambridge graduate and lawyer, commissioned John Smibert to paint his portrait after the sitter returned to London following a grand tour of Europe. This tour was customary for wealthy Englishmen as a capstone of their formal education. The portrait announces Nightingale's position as an educated traveler and connoisseur. When the artist immigrated to the American colonies, he painted wealthy colonists as if they were English aristocrats like Mr. Nightingale.

Excerpt from

Gail Davitt, DMA Exhibition label text, 1997.

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