Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Sharp-Dressed Man, 1778

Thursday, November 15, 2012
Isabella reporting:

As Loretta noted yesterday, researching fashionable males from the past is a much greater challenge than finding stylish ladies. There simply isn't the same quantity of fashion plates or magazines devoted to manly style, and while sometimes it feels as if every bride preserved her wedding gown (just see how many are on our Pinterest board), there's virtually nothing surviving from the nuptial wardrobes of all those grooms. But whenever I feel that long-ago men must have had as little interest in dressing themselves as their modern counterparts dragging through the mall, I come across a splendid example of a sharp-dressed man like this, left.

This is twenty-five-year-old John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor and 19th Thane (1753-1821), painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1778. John had recently inherited his grandfather's estates, lands, and mines, which have made him quite a wealthy young gentleman. In the course of his long life, he will become quite an interesting gentleman, too, traveling widely and amassing such a sizable collection of well-chosen classical art that he established his own London museum. He served in Parliament, supported the abolition of the slave trade, improved his lands and mines, married and sired two sons, and gave generously to the poor. Somehow he even had time to serve as the commander of the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry to help defeat Napoleon.

Yet all that is in the future when John posed for this portrait, a young gentleman dressed in the height of fashion. I love the choice of luxurious fabrics for striding across open country (or at least for posing out-of-doors.) Over black silk breeches and white stockings, he's wearing a vermilion coat extravagantly lined in imported Italian fur, with fur cuffs and facings. Best of all is that waistcoat, a super-stylish leopard print to add a touch of exotica to the Pembrokeshire countryside. His hair is dressed in the 18th c. equivalent to the mullet, with neat side curls in front and the back long and blowing freely in the wind. He's standing elegantly with one one leg turned forward so as to best display his well-turned calf - an important attribute for any Georgian male - and yet the way he's pointing towards the distance shows his youthful impatience to be off with his dog on the adventure that will be his life. Stylishly, of course.

Above: John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor and 19th Thane, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1778. Collection of The Dowager Countess Cawdor, Cawdor Castle.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

That vest may be a spotted velvet..

Mary Beth said...

He looks like Alan Cummings (Mr. Elton in the Gwyneth Paltrow "Emma")!

Anne Elizabeth said...

He has a friend, haha:
http://pinterest.com/pin/116249234102422992/

Isobel Carr said...

Have you seen the blue leopard spot coat from the 1780s in the V&A's collection? I was blown away the first time I saw it. It’s just so outrageous.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Oh, those leopard-print breeches are the BEST! So Rococo Rock Star. Here's another gallant working the leopard, dancer & balletmaster Jean-Georges Noverre:

http://pinterest.com/pin/199706564697958771/

I know there are more portraits of 18th c. gentlemen in leopard out there, too. Anyone else spot more spotted attire?

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Isobel - I HAVE seen the V&A suit, and it is glorious! What's not glorious, however, is their site's search engine - I've been going crazy trying to find that blue suit! Still looking......

Isobel Carr said...

Here ya go, item T.17-1950:

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O127151/coat-unknown/

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Thanks, Isobel - and the description even mentions the John Campbell portrait.

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