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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
603.646.2808
hood.museum@dartmouth.edu

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Thomas Sully, American, 1783-1872

Joseph Hopkinson (1770-1842)
1835
Oil on canvas
Gift of Dr. George C. Shattuck, Class of 1803; P.836.1

 

Along with Daniel Webster, Philadelphia lawyer and congressman Joseph Hopkinson (1770-1842) defended the College’s case in the United States Supreme Court in 1818. From 1814 to 1819, Hopkinson served in Congress as a Federalist. In 1828, President John Quincy Adams commissioned him judge of the federal district court for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, a position he retained until his death in 1842. Thomas Sully’s portrait of Hopkinson is the only painting of the four counsel members to include any props or clues as to the occupation of the sitter. Hopkinson is seated at his desk, quill pen in hand, before him a sheet inscribed: “Mr. Webster / Inviolability of Charters / affects every College.” A volume labeled “Constitution and Laws of U. States” and a rolled paper marked “Dartmouth College. Rights of Corpor[ation].” are also on the desk. Hopkinson gazes upward, apparently deep in thought. His contemplative expression, refined features, and elegant pose corroborate Webster’s reference to “the ripe and beautiful culture of Hopkinson.” Given Sully’s favored reputation as a portraitist well beyond his Philadelphia environs, it is not surprising that his $125 fee for this work was considerably higher than that of Alexander ($75) and Harding ($100).

Last Updated: 5/13/09