The Patriot Rider's Road to Revolution
Town born! Turn out! --Boston street cry, 1770
IN OUR MIND'S EYE we tend to see Paul Revere at a distance, mounted on horseback, galloping through the dark of night. Often we see him in silhouette. His head is turned away from us, and his features are hidden beneath a large cocked hat. Sometimes even his body is lost in the billowing folds of an old fashioned riding coat. The image is familiar, but strangely indistinct.
Those who actually knew Paul Revere remembered him in a very different way, as a distinctive individual of strong character and vibrant personality. We might meet the man of their acquaintance in a portrait by his fellow townsman John Singleton Copley. The canvas introduces us to Paul Revere at about the age of thirtyfive, circa 1770. The painter has caught him in an unbuttoned moment, sitting in his shirtsleeves, concentrating on his work. Scattered before him are the specialized tools of an 18th-century silversmith: two etching burins, a steel engraving needle, and a hammering pillow beneath his arm. With one hand he holds an unfinished silver teapot of elegant proportions. With the other he rubs his chin as he contemplates the completion of his work.
The portrait is the image of an artisan, but no ordinary artisan. His shirt is plain and simple, but it is handsomely cut from fine linen. His open vest is relaxed and practical, but it is tailored in bottle-green velvet and its buttons are solid gold. His work table is functional and unadorned, but its top is walnut or perhaps mahog