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- This portrait was carefully calculated to both quietly display the wealth and authority of this couple and to testify to their political campaign of resistance against British taxation. At the time, Mr. Mifflin was a merchant and a budding politician.
- In response to British taxes on imported goods, Thomas Mifflin and other colonists staged a boycott and promoted the “homespun” movement. Showing Sarah Mifflin weaving a decorative fringe would have been a political endorsement of the campaign for domestic manufacturing. However, the artist, John Copley, was actually a royalist on the other end of the American political spectrum.
- As Quakers, the Mifflins refrained from ostentatious luxury, yet subtle elements of clothing and furnishings demonstrate their prosperity. While their attire appears subdued when compared with contemporary fashion (for example, they wear neither jewelry nor silver buttons), the fineness of the cloth reveals its expense.
More to think about
In today’s world of Instagram and Snapchat, selfies are the norm. Discuss how these contemporary images function in similar ways to portraits from the past, and how they might differ.