Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • What clues can you find that can tell us more about this man?
  • There are several parts of this painting and its partner, John Singleton Copley's portrait of Woodbury Langdon's wife Sarah Langdon (1996.70.2.McD), that indicate sophistication and status. Papers with writing on them indicate that a person knows how to write and is a serious businessperson. Columns and urns from the Greek and Roman worlds communicate sophistication, and a connection to the classical world. Books and libraries suggest an educated and worldly person. How would wealth and status be shown in a portrait today?
  • Facial expressions often communicate the character or personality of a person. What do you think Woodbury Langdon's facial expression is communicating about his character or personality?
  • The Langdon’s commissioned Copley to paint their portraits, knowing he would capture their youthful good looks. Would you rather have your portrait painted in a realistic manner, just as you look right now, or in an idealized manner, as you want yourself to look? Explain your answer.
  • Compare this painting to John Singleton Copley's Sarah Sherburne Langdon. (1996.70.2.McD)