Portrait of John Hancock

image for 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
Credit Line
Roger P. Templin in memory of Daisy Templin
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Work and Industry: Graphic Arts
Government, Politics, and Reform
ca 1775
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Hancock, John
original artist
Copley, John Singleton
Hiller, Joseph
Related Publication
"Hancock by Hiller," IMPRINT
Place Made
United States: Massachusetts
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
National Museum of American History
Object Name