Joshua Reynolds, English, 1723-1792
Title: Portrait of Charles Coote, 1st Earl of Bellamont (1738-1800), in Robes of the Order of the Bath
Date: 1773-1774
Medium: Oil on canvas
245 x 162 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1875
Object Number: NGI.216
DescriptionThe Earl of Bellamont was a vain and 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 vermilion 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 reference is the coot on the earl’s banner and Reynolds includes an actual example of this duck-like bird standing below.

March 2016
ProvenanceBy descent to Sir Charles Coote; purchased, Christie's, 3 July 1875, Sir Charles Coote sale, lot 51
Exhibition HistoryRoyal Academy Annual Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1774

Reynolds, Grand Palais, Paris, 9 October - 16 December 1985; Royal Academy, London, 16 January - 31 March 1986

Master European Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 6 June - 9 August 1992; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 19 September - 6 December 1992; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 13 January - 28 March 1993; IBM Gallery, New York, 27 April - 26 June 1993

Fabric of Vision: Dress and Drapery in Painting, National Gallery, London, 19 June - 8 September 2002
Label TextCoote was a vain and pompous womaniser, who deserted his wife and acknowledged six illegitimate children in his will. His appointment as a Knight of the Bath in 1764, and his raising to an earl in 1767, had more to do with political expediency than any real achievement. Coote is portrayed resting nonchalantly on his sword, resplendent in his official robes. He wears the Order’s oversized hat with ostrich feathers, as well as ornate shoes with rosettes and spurs. This highly flamboyant image is unlike any of Reynolds’s usual portraits.