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Who Is Drinking this Coffee? Help the Art World Solve this Enduring Mystery

Robert Edge Pine man with coffee and dog

The collective knowledge of art historians is immense, yet the subject this painting from one of the world’s most notable portrait artists, Robert Edge Pine, remains a mystery.

Here is what we do know:

  • London-born Robert Edge Pine began his career in England but at some point in the 1780s settled in Philadelphia, where he did portraits of some of the country’s most prominent political and social figures, including George Washington.
  • This painting is believed to have been created around the time Pine relocated to the United States. At that time, especially along the Eastern Seaboard, coffee was considered by many of society’s elite to be a patriotic drink following the 1773 Boston Tea Party. John Adams, an avid coffee drinker along with Abigail Adams, famously called tea a “traitor’s drink.”
  • Successful business people were often portrayed at this time with elements that reflect their trade, leading to speculation among the art community that this man may have been a powerful coffee merchant, rather than a tea-dumping patriot.
  • The man in the painting has a highly identifiable mole on his face. There is also a wicker chair, a newspaper and a dog.
  • The painting is currently in the hands of a British art dealer, with an asking price of more than $16,000.

Coffee world, we ask you to help inform the art world: Who is this man? Your patriotic, tea-dumping great great great great grandfather? One of the country’s pioneering macro roasters? Just some guy who likes coffee, dogs and keeping up on the news of the day?

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Comment

3 Comments

Alan Cooper

Hi

This picture is well known in England and is of Lord Beckham, David Beckham’s great, great, great grandfather. He was the England Football (soccer to those of you in the colonies) team captain and this portrait was painted just after England won the 1782 Football World Cup. You can just see the trophy on the left of the picture. He is reading the sports pages of The Times proclaiming that the team did a wonderful job, hence the smug grin on his face. If you look closely the headline says ‘England Unbeatable’. Little did they know that the nation had to wait until 1966 for their next and only subsequent victory. The mark on his face is from a bite inflicted by a Uruguayan player in the final. He was a regular coffee drinker and attributed his sporting prowess the ‘health giving and stimulative qualities of this newly discovered refreshing hot beverage’. However, the dog remains a mystery.
Alan Cooper
England.

Gerry

That could be a trophy OR a silver coffee pot.
It is questionable that this English Lord would be hanging out sipping Joe on a wicker chair with his precious trophy.

I would like to see some other suggestions on this man’s identity.

jeff

I dunno i like the fake david beckhams great great great grand dad story. Despite the fact that its totally not true, the specifics he gavr were great, like the explanation of the mark on his face haha it would be a Uruguayan player wouldnt it.

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