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The Four Times of Day: Afternoon
Nicolas Lancret
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This is the third in Lancret’s series of paintings The Four Times of Day. A gentleman and three ladies are gathered around a tric-trac table in a woodland glade. Tric-trac was a game similar to backgammon. The gentleman and a lady are playing at the table – she has just thrown the dice from her horn cup and has a double, which carries the potential for extra points. She appears to have moved her scoring peg to the fourth or fifth hole (the equivalent of 48 or 60 points), while the man’s scoring peg is only on the second hole (24 points). The gentleman looks back over his shoulder at one of the ladies and gestures to the counters on the board, perhaps to ask advice on his next move or appeal to the rules.

The series of paintings was etched and engraved in reverse by Nicolas de Larmessin III and presented to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1741.

Key facts
Artist Nicolas Lancret
Artist dates 1690 - 1743
Full title The Four Times of Day: Afternoon
Series The Four Times of Day
Date made 1739-41
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 28.8 x 36.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Sir Bernard Eckstein, 1948
Inventory number NG5869
Location in Gallery Not on display
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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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