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Nicolas Lancret: 'A Lady in a Garden taking Coffee with some Children'

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This painting, one of Lancret's most ambitious of the works and often considered his masterpiece, was exhibited at the Salon of 1742. The subject is a pastoral idyll in contemporary dress. It may have been intended as a portrait of a particular family taking its ease in the kind of idealised park setting popularised by prints after the paintings of Watteau.

Informality is the keynote of both the landscape and the figures, who occupy the left part of the composition. A woman, presumably the mother, offers a spoonful of coffee to the younger child, observed by a man (presumably the father) who holds out a tray to a servant holding a silver coffee pot. The traditional title of the painting, 'The Cup of Chocolate' is, therefore, a misnomer. Behind the mother is the focal point of the setting, a stone vase filled with roses on an elaborate pedestal, which forms the left pier of the fountain basin to the right. The informality of the scene is underlined by the doll lying on the ground beside the fountain and the dog on the right rooting among the hollyhocks.

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