Thomas Hobson

1 portrait matching 'NPG 1972'

Thomas Hobson, by Unknown artist, (1629) - NPG 1972 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Thomas Hobson

by Unknown artist
oil on canvas, (1629)
31 3/8 in. x 24 7/8 in. (797 mm x 632 mm)
Purchased, 1923
Primary Collection
NPG 1972


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  • Thomas Hobson (1544?-1631), The Cambridge Carrier and perpetrator of 'Hobson's choice'. Sitter in 5 portraits.

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This portraitback to top

It is often assumed that having a portrait painted was solely the privilege of the aristocratic elite. But in the second half of the sixteenth-century, a painted portrait was a realistic aspiration for a middle-class that included merchants, lawyers, doctors and writers. This portrait represents the successful Cambridge businessman Thomas Hobson who ran a mail service and livery stable transporting goods and passengers. He became rich hiring out horses to people travelling to London. He insisted that his customers rented either 'this one or none', giving rise to the phrase 'Hobson's choice' by which he is now primarily remembered.

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Current affairs

In Parliament, opponents of Charles I issue a protestation condemning his policies; Charles subsequently orders the Speaker, Sir John Finch, to adjourn Parliament, and after much turmoil, the House is dissolved. Charles I would now govern for eleven years without recourse to Parliament, known as his Personal Rule.

Art and science

Apothcary and herbalist, John Parkinson publishes Paradisi in sole paradisus terrestris, the first published book on British gardening, describing over 1000 plants. In dedicating it to the queen, Henrietta Maria, Parkinson is given the title, botanicus regius primarius by Charles I.

International

Philip IV of Spain sends Dutch painter, Sir Peter Paul Rubens as an emissary to open peace negotiations with England. His mission is hailed a success by both countries. While in England he painted several portraits, including Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel. The Treaty of Suza ends the Anglo-French conflict.

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