The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
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).
Southgate MT. Watson and the Shark. JAMA. 2004;291(19):2290. doi:10.1001/jama.291.19.2290