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The group shows Lt. Col. George Thompson and his wife, who have been reading the collected works of the satirical poet Charles Churchill. A lady visitor, carrying her reticule and flowers, interrupts their slippered ease. From the casual gesture with which Thompson motions her towards a chair, one can assume that she is a close relation.The cosy domesticity displayed here is the essence of the small-scale informal group portrait or conversation piece. It is not surprising that Mortimer, who was also a painter of lively theatrical scenes, endows the present portrait with a stage like presence – perhaps even incorporating a hidden joke.

May 2007