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oil painting

© Geffrye Museum, London

Interior of a parlour with seated man smoking, oil on canvas, signed by John Edward Soden, 1862, in an ebonised pine frame with gilded sight edge, possibly twentieth century.
Object type: oil painting
Object number: 39/2004

More Information:

Detailed Description: +/-

Title/Model: Man smoking in a parlour (descriptive title)
Physical Description:
Oil painting on canvas in an ebonised pine picture frame with a gilded sight edge.
Materials & technique: oil on canvas
Dimensions: Height 30cm
Width 35.5cm
Height 36.3cm (framed)
Width 42.2cm (framed)

History: +/-

Date: 1862 (painted)
Period: Victorian (1837-1901)
Artist/Maker Names: John Edward Soden (artist)
Place: England (painted)
Object History:
Recent discussion has suggested that the arrangement of the playing cards in the foreground of the painting, with the Queen covered by the Jack of Hearts, may be a sexual reference. For further details see the Alice McEwan's letter regarding the painting. It was also noted that the suggestion in the exhibition catalogue that the proliferation of glass domes was an exaggeration may not be the case; it was not uncommon to have so many glass domes in a Victorian household.

This painting appeared in the exhibition Home and Garden Part Two, 1830-1914 at the Geffrye Museum (9 March 2004-18 July 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 (catalogue number 74, pp.172-173). See the Comments field for extracts from the catalogue entry for this painting.

John Edward Soden was a genre painter based in London. Although little is known about him, he exhibited quite large numbers of works. See Christopher Wood, The dictionary of Victorian painters (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1978), p.441.

The figure in this painting may have returned from the races; he has mud on his boots and a volume entitled, ‘The Turf’ sits on the table to the left. The discarded pewter tankard on its side and the redness of his face indicate that that the sitter may have drunk a quantity of alcohol. Indeed, the sitter and the paraphernalia directly surrounding him seem to contrast with the respectable neatness and cleanliness of the room. The footstool is overturned; playing cards are discarded on the floor; the sitter smokes a clay pipe, and slumps with his leg over the arm of the chair and foot on the fender. To the left of the image, there is a print after William Hogarth's Marriage A-la-Mode: 2, The Tête à Tête (1743), National Gallery, London.

The painting was sold under the title 'Smoking by the Fireside', Sotheby's Olympia, London, 3 December 2002, Lot 156. The title was given by the auction house.
Home and garden: paintings and drawings of English, middle-class, urban domestic spaces, 1675 to 1914, edited by David Dewing (London: Geffrye Museum, 2003)

Christopher Wood, The dictionary of Victorian painters (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1978)

Marriage A-la-Mode: II, The Tête à Tête (1743), William Hogarth, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London (museum number NG 114).

David Hussey and Margaret Ponsonby, The Single Homemaker and Material Culture in the Long Eighteenth Century (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 101-104.

Oil paintings in public ownership in London: North & East. Coordinator: Elizabeth Heath; Photographers: Doug Atfield and Andy Johnson (London: Public Catalogue Foundation, 2013).

Subject/Content: +/-

Content Description:
This painting depicts a man smoking in a parlour or drawing room. The man is shown lounging in a red upholstered armchair smoking a clay pipe with one leg resting on the fender and the other slung over the arm of the chair. To the left of the picture is a round table, covered with a deep tablecloth, on which a vase of flowers, a small silver tobacco box and a volume entitled 'The Turf' have been placed. To the right there is a fireplace equipped with fire irons and a highly polished fender. The room is decorated with a patterned carpet and a pink wallpaper with a decorative border. A window dressed with a slatted blind and net curtains can be seen in the background and various pieces of furniture, paintings and ornaments are disposed around the room. In the foreground an empty pewter tankard and playing cards lie discarded on the carpet and a newspaper is draped over an overturned footstool. The painting is signed and dated on the stamped envelope, which is shown lying on the carpet beside the fender at the bottom right corner.
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