Catalogue entry

N04420 Interior with Figures c.1750

Oil on canvas 457×385 (18×15 1/4)
Presented by Julian Lousada through the National Art-Collections Fund 1928
...; L.H. McCormick, sold Christie's 1 December 1922 (76 as ‘A Merry Party, a group of four ladies and gentlemen round a table’) bt Gordon; ...; Julian Lousada, by whom presented to the Tate Gallery
Aldeburgh and Tate Gallery 1967 (15)
NACF Report 1928, 1929, repr. facing p.37; Antal 1962, p.100, pl.51a; Raines 1966, p.118, no.22, pl.45. Also repr.: Sacheverell Sitwell, Narrative Pictures, 1937, pl.43

Raines (1966, p.80) notes that with certain exceptions ‘it is probably correct to regard the conversations as largely fancy pictures - in which some figures may be portraits and some architectural details may be real’. If any of the figures in no.131 are portraits, their identity has been lost. Their setting suggests that this is middle-class company, either at home or in the private parlour of an inn. Details of costume, décor and furnishings certainly indicate a much less affluent way of life than Laroon represents in, for instance, ‘A Dinner Party’, ‘A Musical Conversation’ or ‘A Musical Assembly’ (Raines 1966, no.1, pl.5; no.28, pl.54; no.10, pl.3), but a more comfortable and private one than in his scenes of tavern life (e.g. no.5, pl.35; no.9, pl.52).

As so often with Laroon, the mood and the individuals' relationship to each other are ambiguous, even disquieting. The women appear to be in better spirits than the men, who may be trying to stare down some ill fortune. Raines identifies one of the women as a bawd, though there seems little foundation for this. Antal's comparison of the picture with the ‘Tavern Scene’ in Hogarth's ‘The Rake's Progress’ seems far-fetched.

Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988