Charles Apthorp

Charles Apthorp

1748

Robert Feke

(American, c. 1707-1752)

Oil on canvas

Framed: 141.5 x 117.5 x 7.5 cm (55 11/16 x 46 1/4 x 2 15/16 in.); Unframed: 127 x 101.5 cm (50 x 39 15/16 in.)

Gift of the John Huntington Art and Polytechnic Trust 1919.1006

Description

Called "the greatest merchant on this Continent" in his obituary, Apthorp helped transform Boston into one of the key commercial centers in the American colonies. When the fashionable painter Feke came to town, Apthorp commissioned this elegantly tailored and confidently posed likeness of himself. The sailing ship in the distant background symbolizes Apthorp’s deep financial interests in the Atlantic trade, which included not only products such as textiles, wine, and guns, but also human commodities in the form of slaves. In fact, the slave trade and its attendant commerce comprised a significant portion of colonial Boston’s economy until the decades after the Revolutionary War, when anti-slavery attitudes in New England gained momentum.

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