When Copley couldn’t find a corkscrew

This small oil painting, according to the Museum of Fine Arts, where it’s now on display in the new American Wing, was cut from the door frame of a Lincoln home. The amount of meta-museum going on in the new wing of is uniquely appropriate to Boston, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say there’s a lot of discussion in the captions about what’s identified as ‘art.’

According to legend, this item was painted by John Singleton Copley, better known for his portraits of the who’s who of New England. This is in fact his only surviving still life, according to the museum, painted during a visit to the owner of the house, the respected Dr. Charles Russell in the late 1760s (Russell’s relation was responsible for naming ‘Lincoln’).

Copley’s was engaged to paint Russell’s portrait. During a sitting, the guest was offered wine, but when the household couldn’t produce a corkscrew, Copley went to work on the wall and painted one.


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