Milo Davis’s miniature portrait of Paul Revere (1734–1818) is very similar to Gilbert Stuart’s 1813 late-in-life portrait of this hero of the American Revolution (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). A masterful Boston silversmith, Revere is best remembered for his so-called Midnight Ride, which poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized. On April 18, 1775, Revere ventured to nearby Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British were coming to arrest them. Revere later fought in the Revolutionary War as part of a Massachusetts artillery squadron.
The circumstances of Davis’s faithful reduction of Stuart’s portrait are difficult to ascertain. Because Davis was only about twelve years old when he painted it, the portrait might be interpreted as evidence of youthful hero-worship. In light of the expansionist policies of the U.S. government in the 1830s and 1840s, Revere, an enemy of tyranny, increasingly appeared to represent a bygone era.
Written by Timothy Clark, Class of 2012
American Art Intern, Fall 2011
portraits; elderly; men; miniatures
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