Portraits in disguise - NPG 5308
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) and the Hon. Maurice Ashley-Cooper (1675-1726) are portrayed wearing an approximation of ancient Greek dress. Bathed in light, they stroll through the woods deep in neo-Platonic contemplation. Maurice Ashley draws his brother's and our attention to the beauties of the landscape, underlining the neo-Platonic idea that the beauty of nature is a reflection of the highest beauty - the mind of God. The Greek inscription on the temple proclaims it to be dedicated to Apollo, god of civilised arts, including philosophy. It is probably intended to represent his oracle at Delphi, which was said to have pronounced Socrates, the teacher of Plato and the fount of neo-Platonic doctrine, to be the wisest of men. Emphasising the portrait's philosophical theme, the oracle was considered to be the most important natural source of supernatural wisdom. The young men's pose is based on a classical statue of Castor and Pollux, now in the Prado, Madrid, but which Closterman had seen in Rome.
Both men wear full-skirted coats with large tuned back buttoned cuffs, full-length waistcoats and knee breeches. They wear powdered wigs and carry the Order of the Garter .