Smithsonian Collections

Mrs. John Quincy Adams

Image for Mrs. John Quincy Adams
Data Source
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Center Label
Louisa Catherine Johnson was born in England to an American father and British mother. Her father was the first American consul in England after the Revolutionary War, and the elegant Johnson household was a gathering spot for prominent Americans passing through London. John Quincy Adams visited the Johnsons while serving as American minister to Holland. He fell in love with Louisa, and proposed to the twenty-two-year-old beauty only four months after they met. The couple married in 1797 in London. Here, Louisa is shown about thirty years later, around the time her husband took office as president. She is elegantly dressed and plays the harp, an emblem of her musical ability and refinement. The title of the music score reads “Oh! Say Not Woman’s Heart Is Bought,” and Charles Bird King, with his characteristic attention to detail, copied the lettering as it appeared on the sheet music.
Luce Object Quote
“Mr. King, the painter sent me a small painting for a present which will cost me a sitting for a portrait.” Mrs. John Quincy Adams, diary entry for January 3, 1821, in Belt, The Portrait of Mrs. John Quincy Adams in the National Collection of Fine Arts, unpublished, 1969
Artist
Charles Bird King, born Newport, RI 1785-died Washington, DC 1862
Sitter
Mrs. John Quincy Adams
Date
ca. 1824
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Adams-Clement Collection, gift of Mary Louisa Adams Clement in memory of her mother, Louisa Catherine Adams Clement
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
51 1/2 x 39 5/8 in. (130.8 x 100.6 cm.)
Type
Painting
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Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department
Painting and Sculpture
Object number
1950.6.5
Topic
Landscape\water
Portrait female
Performing arts\music\harp