|Recent discussion has suggested that the painting may be by John Partridge (1790-1872); see Home and Garden (2003), catalogue number 19. The visit of the country relations was a common genre painting subject. The fact that the central female figure with dark hair looks away from the visitor and does not appear to be comfortable indicates she may not be happy with the visitor. The portrait to the right of the painting is leaning forward, which may suggest a humourous take on the subject of family ties.
This painting appeared in the exhibition Home and Garden Part One, 1675-1830 at the Geffrye Museum (16 September 2003-18 January 2004), and in the publication Home and Garden: paintings and drawings of English, middle-class, urban domestic spaces, 1675 to 1914, edited by David Dewing (London: Geffrye Museum, 2003). This painting was catalogued by Eleanor John (catalogued number 17, pp.48-49). See the Comments field for extracts from the catalogue entry for this painting.
The painting was sold by Sotheby's (London, The British Sale, 19 March 2003, Lot 102), attributed to Edward Bird, RA (1772-1819), however, this is no longer thought to be the case. The date of c.1815-20 was suggested because the ladies are wearing divorce corsets, which separate the breasts; divorce corsets were introduced between 1811 and 1813.
Although the sitters have not been identified, it is thought that the painting is probably a subject painting rather than a portrait. The items and people depicted suggest a house visit: the central male figure offers a guest a drink; a maid holds a coat seemingly just taken from the visitor. The decoration of the room, with gilt framed paintings, bronze figures, and classical urns, suggest a cultured approach. The furniture is, in general, late eighteenth century, although the visitor's chair appears slightly later stylistically, and may date c.1810. The walls have plain coloured wallpaper with a paper border below the cornice and above the dado. The paintings in the room, particularly the portraits, suggest a relatively established family, as it indicates that the previous generation were sufficiently prosperous to commission portraits.
|Home and garden: paintings and drawings of English, middle-class, urban domestic spaces, 1675 to 1914, edited by David Dewing (London: Geffrye Museum, 2003)
Oil paintings in public ownership in London: North & East. Coordinator: Elizabeth Heath; Photographers: Doug Atfield and Andy Johnson (London: Public Catalogue Foundation, 2013).