Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


Art History

Committee Chair

Rhonda Reymond


A number of portraits that John Singleton Copley painted in the years prior to the American Revolution show women clad in turquerie. Traditionally, art historians have explained the appearance of this fashion as provincial colonials copying fashions from their parent country. The appeal of the fashion was strong; however, the political, social, and sexual connotations complicate this explanation for the sitters' choice of dress. While the purpose here is not to disprove the explanation of fashion-consciousness, it is to read these portraits from the perspective of the colonized rather than the colonizer. It is an attempt to decode an appropriated imperial fashion and to acknowledge the potentially subversive character of the portraits. Positioned as a sample of the masterful union of the native and the imagined, the perceived and the conjured, the unique and the culturally prescribed, Margaret Gage (1771) provides a significant opportunity to interrogate seemingly irreconcilable social, political, and artistic elements in order to better understand Copley's ways of seeing and his working methods, as well as, his subject's personal beliefs. Margaret Gage is an expression of both colonial and national identity at a time when those identities were very much contested.