Having asked a few 'experts', the consensus seems to be that the painting is of a gentleman dressed in clothes and wearing sideburns that would have been popular in the period 1815 - 1830. We think he looks between 35 and 45 years old as his hair is full and shows no sign of receding. This would put his birth somewhere in the period 1770 - 1795.
My last named ancestor on this branch, Thomas Cole, was born about 1795 which means his father would probably have been born around 1770. Therefore it could be either of them !
However, the reason I think it is probably the unnamed father in the painting is that on the marriage certificate of Thomas's daughter in 1841, Thomas is described as a “carrier”, which I understand was a driver of horse-drawn vehicles for transporting goods. The person in the painting looks like a land owner with a few bob rather than a worker which suggests it was probably the father.
If anyone has any views on either the date of the painting or the age of the person in the portrait please add a comment below. The family would love to put a name to him .... other than him being called "Thomas Cole's father" !
A few days after pushing the button on this blog, I had a response to another post I had made on my general blogs page to a story entitled "Looking for a post 1837 death". I used my above Thomas Cole as an example of somebody who really should be findable but isn't. I explained that I had a copy of his Will which was dated 1st October 1839 and sworn on 24th February 1840 which meant his death probably occurred sometime in between these two dates. I also know from the Will he was married to Sarah and they had three children, Mary, Sarah and Annie and that he had property and a business in Wharf Road, Islington. With all that information, I argued, you would have thought it would be easy enough to find his death. Luckily someone read my blog and contacted me with details of Thomas Cole's burial.
He was buried on 23rd December 1839 and was aged just 52. I subsequently obtained his death certificate which shows he was indeed a "Carrier" by occupation and died on 14th December 1839 of "apoplexy". Up until the late 19th century, apoplexy referred to any sudden death that began with a sudden loss of consciousness. This could have included a heart attack or a stroke. In those days medical science was unable to be specific.
This new information puts his birth in about 1787 which fits in nicely with the 'expert' view that the person in the portrait would have been born between 1770 and 1795. I now believe that the person in the portrait is indeed my 3 x great grandfather, Thomas Cole, and NOT his father.
Another mystery resolved !
(story updated 4th February 2015)