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This is thought to be the work of Gawen Hamilton who specialised in conversation pieces: small-scale paintings depicting family or friends, usually in informal surroundings. Here a group of gentlefolk enjoy a game of cards. Their status as patrons of the arts is suggested by the presence of an artist, his assistant carrying a folder of sketches, and by an allegory of 'Painting and Sculpture' hanging on the wall. In the left corner turned from the group, a small black page fetches a glass of wine from a wine cooler. In many conversation pieces black servants appear as silent shadowy figures, alienated from the life of the household, often depicted like pets or other possessions.

September 2004