In this portrait, it seems
as if the sitter has nothing to prove; that his
position within society is secure and clearly
understood. In fact, Dr Rice Charleton owned several
works by Gainsborough, given to him in exchange
for treatment, which tells us that the doctor
would have enjoyed a privileged place in society.
The painting is constructed in such a subtle
way that it becomes difficult to spot its artificiality.
The foliage frames the figure whilst the diagonal
of the cane creates a sense of depth and suggests
the path that the doctor has just taken. The subject
looks sideways and down, mirroring the diagonal
created by the position of his feet. His expression
is soft but self-contained, as if the most important
relationship is not between him and the viewer
but between him and his thoughts or his contemplation
of nature. He seems to possess a quiet dignity,
defined by this lack of showiness.