Mrs. John Quincy Adams

image for Mrs. John Quincy Adams
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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.
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“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 John Quincy Adams in the National Collection of Fine Arts, unpublished, 1969
Charles Bird King, born Newport, RI 1785-died Washington, DC 1862
Mrs. John Quincy Adams
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Adams-Clement Collection, gift of Mary Louisa Adams Clement in memory of her mother, Louisa Catherine Adams Clement
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Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Painting and Sculpture
ca. 1824
Object number
Portrait female
Performing arts\music\harp
oil on canvas
51 1/2 x 39 5/8 in. (130.8 x 100.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum