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Charles Philips, 1708–1747
Tea Party at Lord Harrington's House, St. James's
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
40 1/4 x 49 3/4 inches (102.2 x 126.4 cm), Frame: 51 1/4 × 61 1/4 × 2 1/2 inches (130.2 × 155.6 × 6.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
architectural subject | architecture | army | card players | cards | chairs | chandeliers | coats | conversation piece | cups | dogs (animals) | doors | dresses | fichus | fireplace | food | Furnishings | gowns | group portrait | house | interior | men | music | musicians | officer (military officer) | painting (visual work) | paintings | portrait | reflections | ruffles | rug | saucers | sitting | standing | tables (support furniture) | tapestries | tea | teapots | waistcoats | wigs | women
Associated Places:
England | Europe | Greater London | London | Lord Harrington's House | St. James's | United Kingdom | Westminster
Associated People:
Montagu, Lady Mary (née Churchill), Duchess of Montagu (1689–1751), fourth and youngest daughter and coheir of John Churchill, first duke of Marlborough, and Sarah Churchill, duchess of Marlborough; wife of John Montagu, second Duke of Montagu (1690–1749)
Pulteney, Anna Maria (née Gumley) (1694–1758), daughter and co-heiress of John Gumley of Isleworth, commissary general to the army, and wife to William Pulteney, first Earl of Bath
Pulteney, William (1684–1764), first Earl of Bath
Chetwynd, William (1684–1770), third Viscount Chetwynd
Chamber, Miss Mary (ca. 1714–21–1783), a maternal granddaughter of the second Earl of Berkeley
Germain, Lady Elizabeth (née Berkeley) (1680–1769), aristocrat, courtier, philanthropist and collector of antiquities
Berkeley, Hon. George (1693–1746), British politician
Sackville, Elizabeth (née Colyear), Duchess of Dorset (1689–1768), British court official and noble, the wife of Lionel Sackville, first Duke of Dorset
Knight, Anne (née Craggs), (1691–1756)
Howard, Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk (1689–1767)
Blundell, Mary, Lady (née Chetwynd) (born ca. 1690–1756)
Tyrrell, James, General (1674–1742) of Shotover, Oxfordshire, British Army officer and Whig politician
Chetwynd, Walter, first Viscount (1678– 1736) of Rudge and Ingestre, Staffordshire, British Whig politician
Pyott, Richard, Colonel (before 1692–1738), Lieutenant of Dublin Castle
Buck, Anne, Lady (née Sebright) (1701–1764), Daughter of Sir Edward Sebright of Besford, 3rd Baronet and Dame Anne Sebright-Lyttleton
Dunch, Elizabeth (née Godfrey) (born after 1685), daughter of Charles Godfrey (1646–1714) and Arabella Churchill (1648–1730)
Berkeley, Mary, Viscount Chetwynd (1671–1741)
Berkeley, James, third Earl of Berkeley (aft.1679–1736), Vice-Admiral
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

In the early 1730s, small pictures with multiple figures, known as conversation pieces, came into vogue. Popular first among royalty and aristocratic families, the taste soon spread to the middling classes and remained popular into the nineteenth century. Charles Philips helped pioneer the conversation piece, and this example is his most ambitious. Here a group of courtiers take tea, most of them Whigs in opposition to George II’s government. The setting is the Earl of Harrington’s London house near St. James’s Palace. Lord Harrington is, however, absent since he was on a diplomatic mission to Paris. Instead, he is represented vicariously by his room, decorated to the highest standards and latest fashions with still-life and ideal landscape paintings above the doors and fireplace, damask hangings, and a Turkish carpet. Strikingly, men and women converse together in apparent equality, and the artist has emphasized the similarities between the sitters, rather than their differences.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

According to a carefully compiled, nearly contemporaneous key to this group portrait, the politician turned diplomat the 1st Earl of Harrington (1683?-1756) was himself absent from this tea party, which apparently took place at the lodgings he shared with his brother in Stable Yard, St. James's. With Harrington, the guests all belonged to the faction of "discontented Whigs" who had expected to control the government after the accession of King George II, but were dumped instead. The hostess, Lady Betty Germain (fifth from the left), sits at the tea table; the gentleman seated on her right, Lord Bolingbroke, was leader of the opposition to Walpole in Parliament. Lord Chetwynd, who commissioned this painting for his country seat, Ingestre Hall in Staffordshire, is the cardplayer on the right at the center table. The most prominent standing figure is perhaps the least important, an elaborately dressed army officer, Colonel Pyott, whose pose is based on a popular statue of the diplomat James Craggs the Younger, which stood in the north aisle of King Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005
Commissioned by Walter Chetwynd, first Viscount Chetwynd (1678-1736) of Ingestre, Staffordshire, from Charles Philips (1708-1747), the artist; by descent to his brother, John Chetwynd, second Viscount Chetwynd (ca. 1680-1767); by descent to his daughter, Catherine Chetwynd (d. 1785) and her husband, John Talbot (ca. 1712-1756); by descent to their son, John Chetwynd-Talbot, first Earl Talbot (1749-1793); by descent to his son, Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, second Earl Talbot (1777-1849); by descent to his son, Henry Chetwynd-Talbot, eighteenth Earl of Shrewsbury and Waterford (1803-1868); by descent to his son, Charles John Chetwynd-Talbot, nineteenth Earl of Shrewsbury and Waterford (1830-1877); by descent to his son, Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, twentieth Earl of Shrewsbury and Waterford (1860-1921); by descent to his grandson, John Chetwynd-Talbot, twenty-first Earl of Shrewsbury and Waterford (1914-1980); purchased by P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. at Sotheby’s, London, England, March 23, 1960 (lot 66), in "Important old master paintings; fine old master drawings" for Paul Mellon (1907-1999) [a]; by whom given to the Yale Center for British Art, 1981.

[a] Sotheby’s. March 23, 1960. Important old master paintings; fine old master drawings. https://worldcat.org/en/title/171311209

High Tea : Glorious Manifestations - East and West (Norton Museum of Art, 2014-02-07 - 2015-05-24) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Pleasures and Pastimes (Yale Center for British Art, 1990-02-21 - 1990-04-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Henrietta Howard - Countess of Suffolk (Kenwood House, 1988-06-14 - 1988-09-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Conversation Piece - Arthur Devis & His Contemporaries (Yale Center for British Art, 1980-10-01 - 1980-11-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Pursuit of Happiness - A View of Life in Georgian England (Yale Center for British Art, 1977-04-19 - 1977-09-18) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Painting in England 1700-1850 - From The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (Yale University Art Gallery, 1965-04-15 - 1965-06-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

A Great Collection of British Pictures in Virginia, The Times (London), , May 1, 1963, p. 5, Times Digital Archive [ORBIS]

Laurie E Barnes, High tea : glorious manifestations East and West, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL, 2014, pp. viii-ix, xiii, 94-95, 161, no. UK 5, fig. 3, GT2905 .B37 2014 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Geoffrey W. Beard, The compleat gentleman, five centuries of aristocratic life , Rizzoli, New York, 1992, p. 128, HT653 G7 B415 1992 (YCBA) [YCBA]

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, April 1977, pp. 254, 258, fig. 5, N1 .A54 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julius Bryant, Marble Hill, Twickenham, English Heritage, London, 2002, p. 9, V 0994 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julius Bryant, Mrs Howard, a woman of reason (1688-1767), English Heritage, London, 1988, pp. 20-21, 25-27, no. 3, DA501 S9 B79 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ching-Jung Chen, Tea Parties in Early Georgian Conversation Pieces, British Art Journal, vol. 10, Spring / Summer 2009, pp. 33, 34, 37,38 [fn 2], fig. 6, N6761 B74 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Also available online : ORBIS [YCBA]

Ching-Jung Chen, The early Georgian conversation piece : Thesis (Ph. D.)--Rutgers University, UMI Dissertation Services, Ann Arbor, 2001, pp. 123, 137, 174, 193-94, 545-48, cat. no. 127, Available online : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses [ORBIS]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 178-179, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ellen G. D'Oench, The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis & his contemporaries, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1980, pp. 6, 15, 69, cat. no. no. 49, fig. 4, NJ18 D5151 D64 OVERSIZE [ORBIS]

Ralph Edwards, Georgian Conversation Pictures, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 254, 258, fig. 5, 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)] [YCBA]

Elisabeth Fairman, Pleasures and pastimes, exhibition labels , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 1990, p. 12, no. 23, DA485 F251 1990 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Elisabeth Fairman, Pleasures and pastimes, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 1990, p. 9, no. 23, DA485 F25 1990 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mitchell, Frameworks : form, function & ornament in European portrait frames, , Paul Mitchell Limited, London, 1996, p. 174, fig. 133, N8551 E85 M56 1996 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Mark Hallett, Court, country, city : British art and architecture, 1660-1735, no. 24, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; London, 2016, pp. 338, 339, fig. 133, N6766 .C68 2016 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John F. Kerslake, Early Georgian portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1977, pp 17, 136, 274, N1090 A591 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Painting in England 1700-1850 : collection of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon : Exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, , 1,2, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 1963, p. 116 (v. 1)..., no. 219, pl. 151, ND466 V57 v.1-2 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Painting in England 1700-1850 from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition 1964-65., , Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 1964, pp. 2-3 (v. 1).., no. 5, pl. 44, ND466 R68 1964/65 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : a passion for British art [large print labels], , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 3, N5220 M552 P381 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [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. 125, pl. 125, N6766 Y34 1977 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Kate Retford, The Conversation Piece Making Modern Art in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2017, p. 174, fig. 132, ND1314.4 .R48 2017 (LC) Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Aileen Ribeiro, Dress in eighteenth century Europe, 1715-1789, B.T. Batsford, London, 1984, pp. 34-5, GT720 R53 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Charles Saumarez Smith, Eighteenth-century decoration: design and the domestic interior in England, , Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1993, pp. 92-3, no. 73, NK2043 A1 S28 1993 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Yanran Situ,, The Extraordinary in the ordinary : chairs for viewing the world through time, Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong, 2014, p. 148, NK2715 .S94 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

David H. Solkin, Painting for money, the visual arts and the public sphere in eighteenth-century England , The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, 1993, pp. 97-8, fig. 28, N5205.7 G7 S65 1993 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sotheby's sale catalogue : Catalogue of Important Old Master Paintings and Drawings : 23 March 1960, Sotheby's, London, March 23, 1960, p. 26, Lot 66, Auction Catalogues (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christopher Simon Sykes, Private palaces, life in the great London houses. , Chatto & Windus, London, 1985, pp. 96-97, pl. 7, DA688 S79 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Tea Party at Lord Harrington's 1730, Connoisseur, Vol. 199, October 1978, p. 78, N1 C75 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Works of art from Midland houses : cataloue of an exhibition 18th July to 6th September 1953, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Birmingham, 1953, p. 18, cat. no. 55, J438 B52F 1953 (LSF) [ORBIS]

Yale University Art Gallery, Painting in England, 1700-1850, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon : [exhibition at] Yale University Art Gallery, April 15-June 20, 1965, , vol. 1, W. Clowes and sons, New Haven, 1965, p. 40 (v. 1)..., no. 151, pl. 44, ND466 Y35 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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