Portrait of William Shirley by Thomas Hudson, 1750

A while ago I posted Sir Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of John Simpson, noting that the sitters style of dress was somewhat different from anything I had seen in contemporary portraits. Here is a similar example, twenty-five years earlier. The painter is Thomas Hudson, the sitter is William Shirley, colonial governor of Massachusetts.

The oldest example of such a three-piece suit—coat, waistcoat and pants all of the same fabric—I have found yet is Cornelis Troost’s portrait of a music lover 1736, here in a modest gray, as befits a Dutch Calvinist. This type of suit was probably more common in the Protestant countries, but the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has a 1755 French example, which is very similar to the suit William Shirley wears.

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