|John Singleton Copley
Sarah Tyler Savage
(Mrs. Samuel Phillips Savage),
The warm white ground was evenly applied in a moderately thick layer that does not completely hide the texture of the canvas. Copley painted the trees very thinly, leaving the white ground visible in places. Abrasion in the area of the shawl reveals the underlying color of the dress, indicating that the black shawl was painted after the dress had been largely completed. There is a pentimento of a white ruffle in the brown paint on the proper right sleeve and a pentimento in the fingers of the proper right hand. Copley painted the white highlights with a low impasto.
Losses are limited to small scattered flake losses, which are the only areas that have been inpainted. The surface is abraded throughout from over cleaning and along the edges from contact with the frame rabbet. A slight loss of impasto is the result of past lining treatments.
During a major treatment in 1978 the glue lining was replaced with a wax-resin lining onto linen. At that time the painting was also cleaned and revarnished with a brushed coat of Acryloid B-67 followed by several sprayed coats of B-72. The varnish is evenly applied, moderately thick, and not significantly discolored.
The frame was probably made and carved by Thomas Johnston (17081767), who was a framer, engraver, painter of coats of arms, jappaner, organ builder, and house painter in Boston. An invoice dated April 23, 1763 from Johnston to Samuel Phillips Savage, who was the sitters husband, charged two pounds thirteen shillings four pence "To Making a handsome Half length Picture Frame inside Edge Car:vd & Gilt." Two years later Savage purchased another frame from Johnston, presumably for his own portrait by Copley.1