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John Morgan John Morgan 173-1789
Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807)
Oil on canvas, 1764-1765
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C.


John Morgan of Philadelphia sat to Angelica Kauffman in Rome, probably during the spring of 1764. Morgan had traveled there as part of a five-year sojourn to Europe designed to further his medical education and acquire memberships in prestigious medical and scientific organizations. In London, Franklin had introduced Morgan to Dr. John Fothergill, who helped him establish his program of study. Franklin also wrote letters to friends in Edinburgh; when Morgan graduated from the university there a friend noted that his reputation was such "as few, if any, have ever obtained."

Kauffman portrayed Morgan in a graceful pose, wearing a banyan, and surrounded by books and other references to his profession. The edifice visible in the background may refer to Morgan's plans for a medical school in Philadelphia, for he had completed a draft of his Discourse upon the Institution of Medical Schools in America earlier that year. The open book is Giambattista Morgagni's Adversaria Anatomica Omnia; in July Morgan visited Morgagni in Padua, where the venerable physician showed him his museum of anatomy and pathology. The paper under Morgan's hand may be an invitation to a meeting of the Royal Academy of Surgery in Paris on October 4, 1764, months after he sat to Kauffman in Rome. These visual clues may indicate that Morgan and Kaufmann corresponded after he left Rome, and that the artist added the details before sending the painting to him in London.

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Title image: Terrestrial globe signed by J. & W. Cary, Courtesy Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress/ Washington, D.C.

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