This is one of two small pictures
by John Cranch showing monks
at work and at play. The companion
picture (now in a private collection)
shows the monks looking very bored, seated around a table strewn with
books, a skull, and an hour glass.
Here they are in a more festive mood.
Since the middle ages monks had
a reputation for indulgence. In Protestant England they were an especially common target for satire, representing everything that was deemed to be corrupt within
the Catholic church.