John E. Brooks, A Brooks Brother Who Clothed Old New York

THE DAILY PIC: A portrait of clothier John E. Brooks from the Museum of the City of New York: fine and distinctly dandy.

This oval portrait depicts John Brooks, son of Henry Sands Brooks, the founder of Brooks Brothers department store.


THE DAILY PIC (#1622): We tend to think of the United States as a pretty young country, but one of the glories of New York is that the city occasionally yields hints of an almost European age and continuity.

Take this painting of a certain John E. Brooks, painted in about 1845 by the artist Shepard Alonzo Mount and now in a show called “Picturing Prestige,” presenting portraits from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

Brooks was a second-generation clothier from New York and one of the Brooks Brothers who gave their name to the still-surviving company.   Looking at John E., I certainly would be happy to let him dress me, head to toe. Imagine looking in the mirror, and seeing yourself looking like him?

I wonder if the mirror-like shape of this canvas is supposed to provide precisely such a reflection effect? Or were 19th-century mirrors so often oval, and in ornate gold frames, so as to give their owners a portrait on the cheap?

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