"The Conversation Piece: Scenes of Fashionable Life"

By Davies, Christie | New Criterion, February 2010 | Go to article overview

"The Conversation Piece: Scenes of Fashionable Life"


Davies, Christie, New Criterion


"The Conversation Piece: Scenes of Fashionable Life"

The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London.

October 30,2009-February 14, 2010

The seventeenth- to the mid-nineteenth century paintings in "The Conversation Piece," which are from the royal collection, show the fashionable at their ease, interacting with apparent naturalness. They are not formal portraits emphasizing rank and importance but the relaxed face of the great and sometimes good: "Look, we are just like you, if rather better." The fashionably informal thus depicted range from wealthy but cheerful seventeenth-century Dutch merchants playing at being aristocrats to Johan Zoffany's The Academicians of the Royal Academy, 1771-2, which depicts them pretending to be artists. All of the Academicians are there, grouped around a miserable scrawny nude male model, his privates tactfully hidden behind a raised knee, discussing how best to draw him. Poseurs looking at a poser. High above them on the wall are formal portraits of the two female founding academicians, Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807) and the flower painter Mary Moser (1744-1819). They could not possibly be present at such an indelicate scene and their images are placed where their imagined eyes can see only walls. Zoffany's masterpiece is, in other respects, though, a vehicle for social inclusivity; the visiting Chinese artist TanChe-Qua is in there as one of the lads and Sir Joshua Reynolds, the President of the Academy, has insisted on being painted while using his huge ear trumpet to establish his handicapped status. Dr. Johnson was not amused, and, when Reynolds emphasized Johnson's poor eyesight in his portrait, said robustly that he did not want to be remembered as "Blinking Sam."

The most interesting portrayals are those of the eighteenth-century British royal family as reachable constitutional monarchs, as a part of their people and as upholders of the British liberty that distinguished their country from foreign absolutism. The royals enjoyed having their informal moments recorded and understood the value of disseminating these images to the public.

In the center of Joseph Nickolls's St. James Park and the Mall (after 174-5), Frederick Prince of Wales, the son of George II, strolls unguarded through a fashionable crowd of promenaders in the center, with Westminster Abbey in the background. In the foreground one woman sells fresh milk straight from the cow next to her and nearby a baby enjoys milk of equal freshness. Two kilted Scottish Highlanders and other exotic foreigners also mingle, for "all human life is here." The Prince is a part of the scene, too, albeit the most distinguished person present. The point had been pressed home by William Hogarth in The Family of George II (1731-2) in which King George and Queen Caroline relax on a handsome garden seat built like a double throne, while their little princess teaches a dog to stand on its hind legs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"The Conversation Piece: Scenes of Fashionable Life"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.