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During his lifetime, Lance was regarded as a worthy British successor to the great seventeenth and eighteenth century Dutch and Flemish still life painters. The strongly lit subject matter framed by an arched opening is directly inspired by the work of these masters. The action of the monkey - whose hat gives the picture its title - is inspired by human prototypes: he is undecided whether to eat first and play afterwards or vice versa. 'Monkeyana' pictures, in which the behaviour of monkeys is linked to human foibles, had a vogue in the early 1800s. Lance has given the monkey the red cap of liberty. The reference would have taken on particular significance in 1848, the 'year of revolutions' in Europe.

August 2004