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M3.  The Boston Tea Party in 1773


The Boston Tea Party  was a political protest by Sons of Liberty members on the night of December 16, 1773 to disguise themselves as Mohawk Indians, board three ships moored in Boston Harbor, and destroy over 92,000 pounds of tea.

The demonstrators, some disguised as American Indians, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company, in defiance of the Tea Act of May 10, 1773. They boarded the ships and threw the chests of tea into Boston Harbor, ruining the tea. The British government responded harshly and the episode escalated into the American Revolution. The Tea Party became an iconic event of American history, and other political protests such as the Tea Party Movement after 2010 explicitly refer to it.


The Vortex composition with the fluid movement of the circular arrangement is obvious here in almost elliptical outline.

Through the use of strong diagonals, a vortex of motion is created in the lower half of the painting. The ship’s mast points straight at the American flag, the picture leads the eye through tea boxes down the water, and then circles back up along the small boats and people. The gas light lights directly to the center of action and reveals the emotion of the people. This circular composition sets the three british ships, the thrown tea boxes and the strong water surface movements, into rolling, turbulent motion.


The distant ship on horizontal acts balancing element for the foreground mass and provides the depth of the picture.

The demonstrator figures and ships almost visibly revolve along the movement. (CA18)

The powerful suggestion of turbulent wave movements through the use of lights and darks on the water surface which are the focal points for this scene draws the eye through the painting. (CA30, 81)

In 1773, the late Baroque and the early Rococo style of figures and ship constructions are evident here.

Also in the triangle, the linear  arrangement on the left with the griffins wharf building and british ships gives pyramidal solidity to the composition in the ensemble of the picture.(CA52)

M3_Boston_Tea_Party_in_1773.html