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Robert Feke, Susannah Speakman Inman (Mrs. Ralph Inman) (1727-1761) (1748)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Susannah Speakman Inman (Mrs. Ralph Inman) (1727-1761) (1948) by Robert Feke.

About the Work

Title : Susannah Speakman Inman (Mrs. Ralph Inman) (1727-1761)
Artist : Robert Feke
Year : 1948
Medium : Oil on canvas
Dimensions : 91.4 x 74.9 cm (36 x 29 1/2 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Susannah Speakman Inman (Mrs. Ralph Inman) (1727-1761)

In the 17th – 19th centuries in Europe and America, commissioning portraits was commonplace. Artists were asked to create portraits either of members of the royal family, or of affluent families. The people commissioning the portraits paid good money for the likeness of their family members to be painted on canvas. Therefore, they expected the artist to use her discretion and make the sitter look good, irrespective of how they actually looked. Oftentimes, portraits were also commissioned to mark special occasions.

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums :

“The works show Feke, the first major painter born in colonial America, at the height of his powers. Drawing inspiration from the engravings of British portraits that circulated throughout the Atlantic world, Feke fashioned the Inmans as London aristocrats, modeling their clothing and poses on the work of the period’s leading British painters.”

This portrait by Robert Feke depicts Susannah Inman, the new bride of Ralph Inman. It is interesting to note here Feke painted the lady as belonging to British high society, even though she did not.

Other Details

Robert Feke’s Susannah Speakman Inman (Mrs. Ralph Inman) (1727-1761)  is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 2410. It is part of the museum’s collection of the South Arcade.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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