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Jean-Etienne Liotard, The Lavergne Family Breakfast

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 Not on display
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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