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Key facts
Full title The Lavergne Family Breakfast
Artist Jean-Etienne Liotard
Artist dates 1702 - 1789
Date made 1754
Medium and support Pastel on paper stuck down on canvas
Dimensions 80 × 106 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the estate of George Pinto and allocated to the National Gallery, 2019
Inventory number NG6685
Location Gallery C
Collection Main Collection
The Lavergne Family Breakfast
Jean-Etienne Liotard

At breakfast, an elegantly dressed woman watches a little girl dip a biscuit into milky coffee. The girl wears paper curlers in her hair. Coffee and chocolate were exclusive and costly beverages in the eighteenth century; the porcelain and silverware they use were no less luxurious.

As well as capturing this tender moment, Liotard lavishes attention on the still-life elements. He uses a build-up of thick, wet pastel to create dimensional reflections on the silver coffee pot and Chinese porcelain, whose glossy surfaces are in turn reflected in the lacquer tray. A minute signature and date – Liotard / a lion / 1754 (‘Liotard / in Lyon / 1754’) – are found on the sheet music that pokes out from the open drawer.

Although this picture is not strictly a portrait, its sitters have long been associated with the Lavergne family, relatives of Liotard’s who lived in Lyon.

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