William Hogarth

Three Ladies in a Grand Interior (‘The Broken Fan’), possibly Catherine Darnley, Duchess of Buckingham with Two Ladies

c.1736

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 652 x 667 mm
frame: 865 x 895 x 78 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2003
Reference
T11756

Display caption

This is an example of the new portrait format – the ‘conversation piece’ – which Hogarth pioneered in the 1730s.
The modesty, small scale and informality of conversation pieces are often seen as reflecting the values of a growing, Anglican middle-class. However, the main sitter, on the left, is probably the aristocratic Duchess of Buckingham, an illegitimate child of the Catholic king James II and a staunch supporter of the exiled Stuart court. Here, she is distracted by a little dog running away with her fan. Is the effect sympathetic or satirical?

Gallery label, March 2011