In the 1820s Burney executed four large water-colour paintings satirising contemporary musical and social life: The Waltz (Victoria and Albert Museum, London), The Elegant Establishment for Young Ladies (Victoria and Albert Museum), Amateurs of Tye-Wig Music (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut) and The Glee Club; or, The Triumph of Music (Yale Center for British Art). Burney may have intended to publish prints of the paintings and to sell both originals and prints, in the manner of Hogarth's 'Progresses'. There was a substantial market for satirical prints during this period. The four pictures were, however, never published.
This is a version of the third-named painting, the only one, apparently, which Burney reworked as an oil painting. Its theme is the battle between 'modern' and 'traditional' taste in the music world. The modern is represented by references to Beethoven, Mozart and others in the foreground, while traditional taste is epitomised by Handel, whose bust looks down upon a group of musicians, appropriately dressed, who are playing (discordantly) music by his great contemporary Arcangelo Corelli. The concert takes place in a room whose decorations are predominantly Gothick in style, a further indication of the revival of ancient tastes… (read more)