Family portraits & Conversation Pieces
(prints & paintings - 3/3)
An Assembly at Wanstead House (1730-31)
'A conversation piece that contains no fewer than twenty-five individual portraits in the miniature, the Assembly was commissioned by the Irish peer Viscount Castlemaine to commemorate the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary which he and his wife had celebrated in their sumptuous Palladian mansion at Wanstead in Essex [...] Hogarth infiltrates the composition with a number of emblematic allusions to the subject of marriage. Lady Castlemaine displays an ace of spades - the winning card - to her husband, while between the couple, a pair of whippets, signifying fidelity, gaze adoringly at each other. The paintings on the wall serve as a commentary on the principal action, echoing the theme of marital devotion.'
A Scene from 'The Conquest of Mexico' (1732-35)
'This charming scene of amateur theatricals records a performance of Dryden's The Indian Emperor at the home of John Conduitt, Master of the Mint, in St George's Street, Hanover Square. In commissioning the scene, Conduitt chose not only to record an important moment in the life of his only daughter Catherine, shown here in black to the right of the stage, but also to commemorate the particularly glittering social occasion which had accompanied the children's performance. While the host and hostess appear only as portraits on the wall above their guests, Hogarth cleverly balances his composition to display the distinguished audience without detracting from the impact of the scene on stage. Here, Catherine and her friends act out a dramatic moment, reminiscent of The Beggar's Opera, in which the Spanish leader Cortez must choose between the love of two Indian princesses.
Amongst the guests, Hogarth draws particular attention to the three royal children, William, Duke of Cumberland, and his sisters Mary and Louisa, who stand before the fireplace immediately behind their governess, Mary, Lady Deloraine. She in turn bends forward, encouraging one of her own daughters to pick up a fallen fan. To her left, the Duchess of Richmond watches the play, while her husband leans on the back of her chair. Behind him, the Earl of Pomfret, wearing the red sash of the Order of the Bath, engages in conversation with Thomas Hill, Secretary to the Board of Trade, while the Duke of Montagu looks on. The scene is to some extent dominated by a bust of Isaac Newton by Roubillac over the fireplace. Conduitt, who had succeeded Newton at the Mint and had married his niece Catherine, was the first biographer of his former colleague and friend, whose memory he did much to promote.'