Thomas William Coke was one of the few Georgian men born into money who didn't turn out to be a total brat. Instead of wasting all his money after coming back from the Grand Tour he used it toward, dare I say, productive things. First of all, he set out on improving his estate, Holkham Hall, a task that lasted until his death in 1842. Thomas then involved himself in animal husbandry. He was said to have even
made bred a flock a sheep that was superior to the native Norfolk ones, so they soon became all the rage. Thomas' advancements in husbandry were so substantial that he was constantly offered (six times!) a peerage, which he humbly always turned down. It also helped that he was a politician. It was only when Queen Victoria pressed him, that Thomas humbly accepted the earldom of Leicester.
Thomas is pictured here by Batoni in the midst of his Grand Tour. Not only is he quite dashing in his ivory and persimmon Van Dyck-inspired ensamble, he is quite the Enlightened chap as well. Look who stands by his side while he poses. His spaniel, as many dog-owners can relate, is not so interested in posing as he is the fabulous smells coming out of that hat. Is that ostrich, and natural dyes? With a hint of bawdy Roman wench too, I believe! Actually, the dog is a nice compliment to his owner. The flowy qualities of the plumes translates into the dog's fur. The dual-coloured fur mimics Thomas' dual-coloured outfit. He also brings a balance to the painting and aids in the leading the eye to all those important bits. Not only is the spaniel's presence bring a calming sense to the viewer but it also shows the sitter's connection with animals. At this point in Thomas' life his studies in husbandry were just a glimmer of an idea, dogs were more his style at this time.
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