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18th Century Portrait Of Three Boys - Attributed To Stephen Slaughter (1697 - 1765)

18th Century Portrait Of Three Boys - Attributed To Stephen Slaughter (1697 - 1765) sold

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"18th Century Portrait Of Three Boys - Attributed To Stephen Slaughter (1697 - 1765)"
Period Portraits are thrilled to present this rare, richly coloured and exceptionally decorative 18th century portrait of three boys, attributed to Stephen Slaughter.
Stephen Slaughter (1697-1765) Training as a pupil of Sir Godfrey Kneller’s academy in 1712, a considerable period of Stephen Slaughter’s career as a painter was spent working in Ireland. Prior to this, Vertue describes him having spent seventeen years travelling and working in Paris and Flanders, the particular details of which are still unknown. Slaughter’s first major picture for and Irish patron was produced for the Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1734, although it is likely that he return on a more permanent basis beginning in 1740-1. Slaughter eventually returned to Britain by 1745, where he was made Keeper of the King’s Pictures up until his death in 1765.
This portrait of three boys speaks of the pleasures of youthful extravagance. It is evident in the playful colouring and pleasure laden atmosphere that this painting takes particular inspiration from the art of Rococo France. The influence of French painting on Slaughter’s work has been emphasised by art historians in his portrait of John Rogerson (National Gallery of Ireland), which stylistically looks towards the exuberant portraits by the likes of Alexis Simon Belle. This is particularly felt in the colouring of the sitter’s costumes, which are often decorated with extravagant gold braiding and details which dazzle the eye. The pictorial scene which sets the three boys at a table, sporting a richly woven carpet and fruit laden basket, might also refer to genre-painting compositional devices made fashionable by the likes of rococo painter Philippe Mercier. Mercier, the most significant rococo painter who came to Britain, infused the sentimental gaiety of the rococo into his portraits and fancy pictures in both colouring and subject matter.
The lavish objects and ripened fruit featured in this painting make it clear that cost and pleasure are of the greatest consideration here. The playful interaction between the sitters gives the painting a joyous frivolity often lacking in works from this period. We can only guess as to why the boy in the centre holds away the mocking and pointing hand of the boy in the red wine frock coat. Is this a playful re-enactment of the fatal temptation of the Old Testament? Does the boy on the left recognise that ripened fruit will not remain so forever, and will quickly turn? Youth is but fleeting, and ripened fruit drop quickly from the tree. Or, perhaps, is this simply a comical joke known only to the boys immortalised in this painting? We shall never know for certain.
The comparison to several of Slaughter’s work gives the attribution of this picture a certain plausibility. This is particularly the case in comparison to a similarly brightly coloured Portrait of Two Young Girls, sold at Sotheby’s, London, 15 November 1989, lot 41. A pair of portraits also given to Slaughter, showing a boy and girl in similarly colourful costumes, was sold at Sotheby’s, London, 9 November 1994, lot 42. Another similar picture showing a gentleman in front of a table laden with bottles ceramics and smoking implements, attributed to Slaughter, was sold on the Art Market in the 1990s and published in the National Geographic, no.62, p. 17.
It is likely that the intricately painted towers and scene in the background of this work depicts a hitherto forgotten Irish town or city. Certainly the tablescape, sitters costumes, and on deck setting, suggest that these boys emanate from a wealthy mercantile family with coastal connections. This fine painting is ready to hang in an antique carved and gilded rococo style frame.
Canvas : 38" x 50" / 97cm x 127cm.
Frame: 47" x 60" / 120cm x 152cm.
Internal Ref: 00087
Higher Resolution images on request
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