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The Cover
May 19, 2004

Watson and the Shark

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(19):2290. doi:10.1001/jama.291.19.2290

While crossing the Atlantic on his way to England in 1774, the American Colonial painter John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) met Brooke Watson, a 30-something rising London politician who wore a wooden peg in place of his lower right leg. To all who would listen, Watson recounted in grisly detail how he had lost the leg when he was 14 in a harrowing encounter with a shark in Havana Harbor. Fascinated by the man's story (which may well have fed into his own fear of the sea), Copley painted the scene not once, but three times. The first two versions, which were completed in 1778, are virtually identical. It is believed that Watson commissioned the first and that the second is a replica Copley made for himself. They are now in the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC) and in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, respectively (JAMA covers, November 24, 1989, and February 28, 1996).

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