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Laroon, the son of the painter of the same name, trained as an artist but served in the Army, from which he retired in 1723/4. From then on he apparently turned to painting for pleasure, producing conversation pieces, musical assemblies and stage scenes, all devoid of the moralising content of Hogarth. It is not clear whether this polite private gathering is an actual scene, or an imaginary one. Whatever its status, the genteel but merry middle class society it depicts, drinking wine and smoking tobacco pipes, is a fair reflection of Laroon's own inclinations and level in society. Of a convivial nature, his friends were drawn largely from London's artistic, theatrical and musical community.

September 2004