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This scene is set in the mid-eighteenth century. A country family receives a frosty welcome from their richer relations who they hope will give them money. No-one stands up to greet them. The two women at the table whisper and glance haughtily at the young boy. And the man on the left continues to read his newspaper. Above the fireplace a painting illustrates the biblical story of Dives and Lazarus – in which the wealthy Dives ignores the suffering Lazarus at his palace gate. Some critics missed this message and saw the picture simply as an embarrassing meeting.

May 2007