LANCRET, Nicolas
(b. 1690, Paris, d. 1743, Paris)

Lady and Gentleman with two Girls and a Servant

Oil on canvas, 89 x 98 cm
National Gallery, London

This painting, representing a family in the garden, was exhibited in the Salon of 1742, the last in Lancret's lifetime, and is a masterpiece, emancipated from all influences. The family anecdote is charming, just tinged with humour, the figures themselves have a flower-like charm and freshness, anticipating early portraits by Gainsborough. According to the Salon livret the family are taking coffee, and the younger girl is obviously experiencing her first taste of it. It might almost be her first taste of the grown-up world, exchanged for the doll discarded in the foreground, but Lancret is too delicate and delightful for such moralizing. The secluded garden with its graceful sweep of fountain and tall, flower-entwined urn is decor which almost succeeds in convincing the spectator it could exist, and much the same is true of the cluster of hollyhocks amid which a dog chews his bone - fashionable hollyhocks dyed to suit Lancret's palette.