Portrait of John Hancock

John Hancock (1737–1793), Boston merchant and politician, is famous for his prominent signature on the Declaration of Independence. He presided over the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia between 1775–1777, and later served as governor of Massachusetts.
Hancock's portrait was painted by Boston artist John Singleton Copley early in the 1770s. The painting, now in the Massachusetts Historical Society, was copied by several printmakers. Joseph Hiller Senior's mezzotint survives in two versions. The Museum's copy of this print is one of the earlier state with just Hancock's name. Another version with the addition of his title, "President of the Continental Congress," and the artist's name, is in the collection of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.
Joseph Hiller Sr. worked as a silversmith in the 1770s. Like Paul Revere, another Boston silversmith in this era, Hiller also made engravings. Hiller may have worked directly from Copley's portrait or copied another print. Several printed portraits of Hancock made before 1800 offer evidence of popular interest in images of political figures and the active market for prints.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
ca 1775
Hancock, John
original artist
Copley, John Singleton
Hiller, Joseph
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
sheet: 26 cm x 19.8 cm; 10 1/4 in x 7 13/16 in
image: 23 cm x 19.8 cm; 9 1/16 in x 7 13/16 in
Place Made
United States: Massachusetts
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Government, Politics, and Reform
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Graphic Arts
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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