34½ x 44; A Conversation of Virtuosi, by Gawen Hamilton, raffled 15 April, 1735. "Won by Mr Joseph Goupee --- 40. hieghest Numbr thrown" [Vertue]

Conversation Pieces

Hogarth v Hamilton

"When we are confronted with the expression of the mind of someone long dead, embodied in a work of art ..... we have to develop a technique of questioning, asking questions which arise out of the work itself."     The Business of Criticism, by Helen Gardner, 1959.

Are the paintings above and below by the same hand? It's beginning to look like it.


Austin Dobson's 1907 catalogue entry for the conversation piece seems to have introduced, or perpetuated, three errors, or probable errors, which were followed, wholly or in part, at least until after Beckett's account of 1949. One: the attribution to Hogarth of the painting; two: the date of 1740; three: confusion of the original with its copy. The picture sold at Christie's in 1902 cannot have been the original, which is still in the Earl of Derby's collection, but Dobson appears to have assumed that it was the same one. Dobson also states unequivocally that the picture belonged to Mr Walker, an assertion which has yet to be confirmed.

Monamy showing a Picture
to Mr Kent

The correspondence of Mr Walker with Mr Kent (in reverse) is almost uncanny. Clothing, physiognomy, expression, wig, stance, legs are so similar it is almost impossible to doubt that the two figures are by the same hand.

I used to think the presence of the pictures hanging on the wall was typical of Hogarth, but they appear with equal frequency in Hamilton's conversations. The carpet ruck or wrinkle seemed to echo Hogarth's carpets, but the carpet here is even more like other carpets in Hamilton's groups. The figures are more stiff than Hogarth's. The wood panelling re-appears in other paintings by Hamilton --- whereas several of Hogarth's groups are in an outdoor setting. Too much was made by me, following Paulson, of the rectangular "imprisoning" as typical of Hogarth.


Gawen Hamilton
or his ghost


The Earl of Oxford & Family, by Gawen Hamilton. Formerly attributed to Hogarth.


The two versions of Monamy and Walker.

Below: the last known published attribution of this picture to Hogarth: 1981
(except for the hopelessly inaccurate entry for Monamy in the Grove Dictionary of Art, 1996)


From William Hogarth: Werkverzeichnis, Verlag Ullstein 1981, by Lindsay Stainton

After 1981 the painting seems to have been dropped from the Hogarth canon by tacit art-historical agreement.


Horace Walpole's inventory of Strawberry Hill, 1784.


Mr Richard Bull in 1742

mr thomas walker
chicago commentary
page one         page two         page three         page four
the two conversation pieces
conversation one         conversation two
more on vauxhall gardens
title page     introduction     background
article 1981     article 1983
monamy website index
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© Charles Harrison Wallace 2005
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