<< YCBA Home Yale Center for British Art Yale Center for British Art << YCBA Home

YCBA Collections Search

 
Creator:
William Hogarth, 1697–1764, British
Title:

Portrait of a Family

Former Title(s):

A Family Party [1985, Cormack, YCBA Concise Catalogue]

Family Party

Date:
ca. 1735
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Support (PTG): 21 x 29 1/2 inches (53.3 x 74.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1977.14.58
Classification:
Paintings
Collection:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
bust | card table | cat (domestic cat) | chairs | chandelier | Chinese vase | Chinese vase | conversation piece | costume | curtains | dog (animal) | drawing room | embroidering | family | family | fireplace | food | furniture | gesture | group portrait | handkerchief | interior | men | mirror | party | portrait | pregnancy | saucer | sculpture | servant | slave | tables | tea | tea set | tea table | teacup | tray | women
Access:
On view
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:407
Export:
XML

William Hogarth helped popularize the small-scale conversation piece in the early 1730s, taking the conventions of full-scale aristocratic group portraiture and making them suitable to patrons from the gentry and middling ranks. The identity of this family has been lost but their home is filled with expensive goods and furnishings such as Chinese porcelain, much of it imported to England through expanding trade networks in Asia and Africa, or made from imported raw materials. The canvas has been cropped slightly on the left, leaving a pair of disembodied hands holding a tea tray. In its original state, the figure serving tea probably represented a young African servant, another sign of this family’s pretensions to refinement and status.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016



At the far left of this family portrait a small figure with brown hands and dressed in green and red livery holds out a silver tray, on which rests an overturned teacup. Several features of the painting—including its unusual dimensions, compressed composition, and the condition of the canvas—suggest that it was cut down sometime after Hogarth completed it. In its original state, the figure at left was almost certainly wholly visible and probably represented a young African servant.

"Portrait of a Family" is characteristic of Hogarth’s innovative approach to the conversation piece. Rather than arrange his sitters in formal, static poses, Hogarth frequently showed them engaged in an action or event—in this case, the disruption caused by the kitten’s toppling of the yarn basket from the tapestry table. The scene is set within an opulent sitting room filled with expensive goods and furnishings, many of them imported to England through its expanding Asian and Atlantic trade networks or made from imported raw materials, including a silver chandelier and porcelain tea service, and a Chinese vase and lacquer ware cabinet. The now partially cropped servant provides yet another sign of the family’s worldly wealth.

Gallery label for Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain (Yale Center for British Art, 2014-10-02 - 2014-12-14)



The subject of this vivacious conversation piece is not known, although judging from the elegance of the clothes and the refinement of the drawing-room interior, with its carved marble fireplace and expensive furniture, the group was well connected. The lady at the tea table, the hostess, gently extracts a fine gauze handkerchief from the pocket of the gentleman to her right, while the gentleman on her left lifts the teacup from her saucer. This is intriguing enough, but the affectionate dog that sits in the lap of the gentleman to the far right is obviously pregnant and, in the foreground, a cat pounces on a ball of wool that has rolled out of an overturned workbasket. At the extreme left, the hands of an otherwise invisible black servant offer to the gentleman who converses with the lady at the worktable an overturned teacup on a small silver tray. The meaning of Hogarth's tea party has been lost-and may never have been known by more than the artist, his patron, and a few insiders. It seems doubtful that all the figures here belong to a single family.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005
In Hogarth’s Portrait of a Family (fig. 3), a small figure with brown hands and dressed in green and red livery holds out a silver tray, on which rests an overturned teacup. Several features of the painting - including its unusual dimensions, compressed composition, and the condition of the canvas - suggests that it was cut down sometime after Hogarth completed it. In its original state, the figure at left was almost certainly wholly visible and probably represented a young African servant. This work is characteristic of Hogarth's innovative approach to the conversation piece. Rather than arrange his sitters informal, static poses, Hogarth frequently showed them engaged in an action or event - in this case, the disruption caused by the kitten's toppling of the yarn basked from the tapestry table. The scene is set within an opulent sitting room filled with expensive goods and furnishing, many of them imported to England though its expending Asian and Atlantic trade networks or made from imported raw materials, including a silver chandelier and porcelain tea service, and a Chinese vase and lacquer was cabinet. The now partially cropped servant provides yet another sign of the family's worldly wealth.

Esther Chadwick, Meredith Gamer, and Cyra Levenson

Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in eighteenth-century Atlantic Britain, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2014, p.14, V 2556 (YCBA)

Mark Aronson, Commentary on Portrait of a Family by William Hogarth, [ Website ] , Yale Center for British Art, Accessed 12/1/2015, 15:59 minutes, Available Online http://interactive.britishart.yale.edu/slavery-and-portraiture/333/commentary-by-mark-aronson

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 252, 255, fig. 1, N5220 M552 A7 1977 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Published as April 1977 issue of Apollo; all of the articles may also be found in bound Apollo Volume [N1 A54 105:2 +]

Ching-Jung Chen, The early Georgian conversation piece : Thesis (Ph. D.)--Rutgers University, UMI Dissertation Services, Ann Arbor, 2001, pp. 65, 66, 474-75, cat. no. 104, Available online : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses

Malcolm Cormack, A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 120-121, N590.2 A83 (YCBA)

Ellen G. D'Oench, The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis & his contemporaries, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1980, pp. 6-7, 68, cat. no. 47, NJ18 D5151 D64 OVERSIZE

Ralph Edwards, Georgian Conversation Pictures, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, p. 252, 255, fig. 1, N1 A54 105:2 + (YCBA) Another copy of this article may be found in a separately bound and catalogued copy of this issue located on the Mellon Shelf [call number : N5220 M552 A7 1977 + (YCBA)]

Elizabeth Einberg, William Hogarth : A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven, London, 2016, pp. 83-85, cat. 47, NJ18 H67 +E36 2016 Oversize (YCBA)

Figures of Empire : Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2014, pp. 14-15, 41, fig. 3, V 2556 (YCBA)

William Rummel Francis, William Hogarth : A Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Prints at the Virginia Museum, , Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA., January 30-March 5, 1967, p. 23, no. 18, NJ18 H67 +F72 1967 Oversize (YCBA)

Jonathan Holloway, Commentary on a Group Portrait featuring Elihu Yale by an unknown artist, [ Website ] , Yale Center for British Art, Accessed 11/30/15, Passing comments and references, Available Online http://interactive.britishart.yale.edu/slavery-and-portraiture/331/commentary-by-jonathan-holloway

Jonathan Holloway, Commentary on Portrait of a Family by William Hogarth, [ Website ] , Yale Center for British Art, Accessed 11/30/2015, 15:09 minutes, Available Online http://interactive.britishart.yale.edu/slavery-and-portraiture/338/commentary-by-jonathan-holloway

Penelope McElwee, The non-representation of the agricultural labourers in 18th and 19th century English paintings : an exploration into the artistic conventions followed by the aristocracy and landowning classes in representations of the agricultural labourers ..., Newcastle upon Tyne, 2016, pp. 12-13, 16 -17, , fig. 1-1, NX650.L32 M34 2016 (YCBA)

J. H. Plumb, The pursuit of happiness : a view of life in Georgian England : an exhibition selected from the Paul Mellon collection, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1977, pp. 58, 120, no. 126, N6766 Y34 1977 (YCBA)

Kate Retford, The Conversation Piece Making Modern Art in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2017, p. 291, fig. 216, ND1314.4 .R48 2017 (LC) Oversize (YCBA)

Stuart Semmel, Commentary on Portrait of a Family by William Hogarth, [ Website ] , Yale Center for British Art, Accessed 12/1/2015, 9:14 minutes, , Available Online http://interactive.britishart.yale.edu/slavery-and-portraiture/334/commentary-by-stuart-semmel

Sacheverell Sitwell, Conversation pieces, a survey of English domestic portraits and their painters , B.T. Batsford, London, 1936, pp. 17, 18, 92, pl. 17, fig. 17, ND1314 S5 1936 (YCBA)

Slavery and Portraiture in 18th-century Atlantic Britain, [ Website ] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2015, Available Online https://interactive.britishart.yale.edu/slavery-and-portraiture/

Angus Trumble, The Finger : A Handbook, , Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2010, p. 81, GT498.F46 T78 2010 (YCBA)

William Hogarth : A Selection of Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon., , National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., 1971, pp. 44, pl. 10, NJ18 H67 U53 (YCBA)

Chi-ming Yang, Commentary on Portrait of a Family by William Hogarth, [ Website ] , Accessed 11/30/2015, 6:31 minutes, Available Online http://interactive.britishart.yale.edu/slavery-and-portraiture/329/commentary-by-chi-ming-yang


If you have information about this object that may be of assistance please contact us.