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The Four Times of Day

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We do not know whether someone commissioned The Four Times of Day: Morning, Midday, Afternoon and Evening or whether Lancret produced them speculatively in the hope of making money from the engravings, since series of prints were popular with the public. Painting series of pictures was something of a speciality for Lancret – he had already produced The Four Seasons in about 1719, The Four Elements by August 1732, and The Four Ages of Man (also in the National Gallery’s collection) by July 1735. The Four Times of Day was complete by February 1741, when the engraver Nicolas de Larmessin III presented proofs of his engravings of them to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris.

This series was painted on copper, which allowed for the fine and detailed brushwork we see here in the hands and faces of the principal figures, where Lancret made numerous small adjustments to produce particular expressions and gestures.

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