Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Portrait of Charles Coote, 1st Earl of Bellamont (1738-1800), in Robes of the Order of the Bath, 1773-1774
Oil on canvas, 245 x 162 cm
The Earl of Bellamont was a vain, pompous womaniser, who deserted his wife (a daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Leinster), and in his will acknowledged six illegitimate children by four different mothers. He was installed as a Knight of the Bath in 1764 after quelling a minor uprising, and was created an Earl three years later. He married in 1774, and that same year Reynolds completed this flamboyant portrayal of him.
The Earl rests nonchalantly on his sword, dressed in ceremonial satin and lace and showing off his shoes with rosettes. No other Knight was ever immortalised in such a relaxed pose, or actually wearing the Order's oversize hat with ostrich feathers.
Whereas the face is strongly painted with vermillion red, the fugitive carmine used for the robes has now turned to pink. The cross-legged pose from the antique is a typical eighteenth-century formula and, allied to the loose costume, far off gaze, undressed hair and falling curtain, evokes the era of Anthony van Dyck. A family reminder is the coot on his banner and one standing below it.
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