Family Audio Tour: Portrait of Charles Coote

Full length portrait of man wearing a pink cape and ostrich-feather hat
Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), Portrait of Charles Coote, 1st Earl of Bellamont (1738-1800), in Robes of the Order of the Bath, 1773-1774. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland Credit

Joshua Reynolds (17231792), Portrait of Charles Coote, 1st Earl of Bellamont (17381800), in Robes of the Order of the Bath, 17731774

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Transcript

Ide:
A portrait – or a picture of a person – can tell us a lot about a person, even if they lived a long time ago: their personality; their job; the things they liked.

Eoin:
Well, this man obviously liked clothes! Look at that enormous hat with feathers, and the pink cape and shiny suit with all those frills and tassels. Very fancy!

Coote: [posh English accent]
Are you talking about me young man? Can’t you tell I’m important? My hat is made from ostrich feathers no less. It shows that I’m a knight – a Knight of the Order of Bath.

Ide: [whispering to Eoin]
Knights usually put their hat on the table next to them, but he wants everyone to see it!

Eoin:
So is he a bit of a show-off?

Ide:
Well, look at how he’s standing! In a portrait, the pose tells us a lot.

Eoin: 
He’s got his weight on one foot and the other leg is crossed over – he looks relaxed – and his hand is on his sword near his hip – very confident. And his head’s up high – haughty! 

Ide: 
Sh-sh or he’ll hear. And look where he’s standing? Settings are also important in portraits.

Eoin:
I see a big stone column and pink curtain – it looks like a castle or palace. Very grand!

Ide: 
This artist, Joshua Reynolds, was very good at making people look grand. That’s why people liked to be painted by him. And he also told us who this man was by including two hidden clues. See if you can find two birds.

Eoin:
[as if searching] Aaah, found them! There’s one on the big flag next to him, and another one – a real one – just beneath it. They’re both grey.

Ide:
It’s a bird called a coot.

COOTE: [posh English accent]
Coot? Are you talking about me again? I’m Coote, Charles Coote! And that bird is my family symbol!

Eoin:
I think I’m ready to paint my own portrait now. I just need to remember four things: clothes, pose, setting and clues!

Ide:
And you, if you had to paint a portrait, who would it be of, and how would you show them? Tell whoever you’re with.

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