The Conversation Pieces
compared further

It appears to me that version 1, here in colour, now at Knowsley, was painted in about 1730-32. Version 2, presumably still in Chicago, although very similar, seems appreciably cruder in every respect; and is therefore a copy, artist unknown, perhaps painted 1740 or later. The relative crudity also applies to the easel painting. Its manner, however, resembles that of many other pictures attributed to Monamy, some of which I've felt doubtful about. Perhaps they are by a studio assistant. At the same time, Did Monamy employ assistants who were more accurate and delicate painters than he was?

That question aside, these two paintings throw up several conundrums. Assuming they were, in fact, painted a few years apart, why were they ever produced, and who would have paid for them? Version 1 is said to have belonged to Richard Bull, who gave it to Horace Walpole: when and why? If it was painted in 1730, Richard Bull can hardly have been the original owner. The comment on the piece by Devis, below, from Sitwell's Conversation Pieces, p 51, remarks that "the husband and wife are very young in this picture".

Malcolm Warner comments: "The existence of more than one version is not unusual with small-scale group portraits, a version being painted for each of the sitters. It seems reasonable to suppose that they are more or less contemporary works by the same artist, and there is nothing to suggest which may have been painted first." I dissent, of course. See further here.

Mr Richard Bull and his wife, by Arthur Devis, signed & dated 1742. Bull's dates are 1721-1805.

"When we are confronted with the expression of the mind of someone long dead, embodied in a work of art, [in] the process of coming to understand it ..... we have to develop a technique of questioning, asking questions which arise out of the work itself." Helen Gardner, 1959.

the chicago catalogue
page one         page two         page three         page four
the two conversation pieces
conversations: yet another look
more on vauxhall gardens
title page     introduction     background
article 1981     article 1983
monamy website index

© Charles Harrison Wallace 2005
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