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Mather Brown (1761-1831)
Sir Richard Arkwright, 1790
Oil on canvas
Charles F. Smith Fund - 1957.8

During the eighteenth century, men had three components to their costume: a coat, waistcoat, and breeches. While there were slight variations throughout the century in a size of a cuff or the cut of a lapel, the main differences were in colors and materials. Brown's portrayal of Sir Richard Arkwright conveys a man of comfortable prosperity as indicated by his size. Arkwright, an imposing figure, is conservatively dressed in a dark green coat with turned-over collar, black breeches, and cream double-breasted waistcoat. The gold-colored buttons on the coat and waistcoat add a hint of richness to the dark tones. An older gentleman, he was probably less wont to embrace the new styles in dressing that were fashionable during the 1790s but has adopted the narrower cuffless sleeve. Arkwright's plain but obviously expensive clothing materials are set off by the brocaded upholstery of the chair and the opulent draperies. He appears to be wearing a wig. At the end of the eighteenth century, older or more conservative men continued to wear wigs even though it had become more commonplace for men to display their own hair.