William Hogarth

Three Ladies in a Grand Interior (‘The Broken Fan’), possibly Catherine Darnley, Duchess of Buckingham with Two Ladies


Not on display

William Hogarth 1697–1764
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 652 × 667 mm
frame: 865 × 895 × 78 mm
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2003

Display caption

This is an example of the new portrait format – the ‘conversation piece’ – which Hogarth pioneered in the 1730s.
The modesty, small scale and informality of conversation pieces are often seen as reflecting the values of a growing, Anglican middle-class. However, the main sitter, on the left, is probably the aristocratic Duchess of Buckingham, an illegitimate child of the Catholic king James II and a staunch supporter of the exiled Stuart court. Here, she is distracted by a little dog running away with her fan. Is the effect sympathetic or satirical?

Gallery label, March 2011

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