292-garrick-villa

Who is the standing man in the brown top coat?

A row hangs over us and it has to do with Zoffany’s portrait of David Garrick, to which note 282 of the Brown Advisor refers.

Steffie Shields in her volume, Moving Heaven and Earth, has suggested that this is Brown himself. However Dr F of Sussex has questioned SS’s conclusion with the observation that the figure cannot be Brown, because it is wearing gloves and the man was a servant therefore.

This was a matter for the Tatler’s Waste-bin, and the balance of the argument, finely wrangled, came out in favour of Shields, for it was felt that there was a logical flaw in the case of Dr F. The figure undoubtedly has Brown’s stoop and his cocked head, and is wearing his great coat. Now we may ask what a servant is doing in such a dominant place in the picture, when he needn’t be there at all, and why is he wearing such a coat, and further if this is indeed a footman’s fawn coat, then what fancy induced Brown to favour one similar for the portraits that we do have of him? In short we might say at the very least that Brown was prepared to wear a servant’s clothes for a portrait, with big travelling buttons on the serge. And if Brown was prepared to dress up as a servant, then it is hard to say that he shouldn’t have done for this portrait, and why else would a servant be there unless he had played some part in the joke that Garrick is so expansively telling? And is the joke that Brown was wearing gloves, like a servant and offering them drinks, and would that be the kind of joke for which Brown was noted – I mean along with his bad puns and his sauciness.

It is a clever argument, but too clever, methinks, to be persuasive. I therefore tend to end at odds with my companions at the T W-b, in thinking Dr F may have the safer answer, adding only that the buttons, and the brown coat – they do seem to say something about Brown and the class that he chose to attach himself to.