In the ferment of protest leading to the Revolution, Philadelphia's leading merchant, Robert Morris, played many roles. But he performed his most valuable service in the cause of independence as the Continental Congress's superintendent of finance. In that capacity, he undertook the seemingly impossible task of raising money to purchase arms for the colonial armies. Although he has been chastised for practicing the "art...of dazzling the public eye by the same piece of coin, multiplied by a thousand reflectors," he richly deserves his title as financier of the American Revolution. For it was his fiscal sleight of hand that ultimately supplied the funds for Washington's campaign of 1781, which ended in the surrender of the British forces at Yorktown.
Robert Edge Pine's portrait of Morris is one of the most vigorous likenesses painted by this English-born artist during his stay in America. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that Morris was more than an ordinary sitter, since it was he who lent Pine the money to finance a studio and gallery in Philadelphia.