c. 1698 – 1737
A large Family Group in an Interior
In this early conversation piece, a genre which Hamilton helped to pioneer in the first half of the 18th century, we see a family sitting in an interior. The informality of conversation pieces was key to their popularity. Families and groups of friends were able to present themselves engaged in polite conversation, often showing off their talents and intellectual pursuits, as though caught unawares by the painter.
The most prominent figure in the picture, presumably the father and head of the family, looks not at the viewer, but across the picture to a woman who must be his wife. The children of the couple hold books, musical instruments, a lap dog, and several fans. Paintings from their art collection hang on the wall behind them, and an archway reveals their garden estate complete with a Palladian folly. These accoutrements have been chosen to represent the family’s aspirations to the budding 18th century notion of polite culture: self-improvement, the study of the arts and sciences, and a manner of behaviour which came to define the emerging British middle classes.
Private Collection, Italy