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The handsome sitter in this painting is Gaëtan Apolline Balthazar Vestris (1729–1808), a French ballet dancer who was the star of the Paris Opéra.

Gainsborough must have painted this portrait in 1780–81, when Vestris visited England to perform at the King’s Theater in London.

Born in Kloster Neuzelle (in Neuzelle-Lausitz), Austria, Donat studied at the Akademie in Vienna around 1762 with the portraitist (and director of the Akademie) Martin Meytens I (1695–1770), as well as with Franz Weirotter (1730–1771) and Jakob Mathias Schmutzer (1733–1811).

Donat became a very successful conservative portraitist in Vienna.

Dandyism, often associated with the first true dandy, George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778–1840), started to emerge in England in the 1770s and became a fashion statement for gentlemen by 1800 and standard by the 1820s.

Vestris wears a well-tailored coat with wide lapels, a light yellow silk waistcoat (or vest) underneath, and a fine white linen neck scarf carefully tied ‘in a waterfall of flowing layers’, just the way Beau Brummell would wear his white cravat a couple of decades later.

This seemingly innocuous detail reveals that family lineage through a male heir and gender-based roles within a household were matters of great importance in the Dutch society.

The fact that the children and their parents all wear austere black clothes hint at the family’s Protestant faith.

The large triangular collars of the women’s clothes and the square band collars of the men point to the Dutch fashion in the 1660s.

François Clouet was the son and pupil of the artist Jean Clouet (c. Like his father, the younger Clouet was responsible for numerous portrait drawings of members of the Valois court in France.

Although these attribution and identification are no longer upheld, this portrait rendering an unknown family by an anonymous Dutch artist showcases growing commissions for family portraits from affluent middle-class patrons who emulated the upper class’s way of living and art patronage in the seventeenth century.

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