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Explore the Exhibition

Johan Zoffany, The Tribuna of the Uffizi, 1772 - 1777©

The French word ‘conversation’–meaning a polite social gathering–had entered most European languages by the seventeenth century.

In Holland the word conversatie was used to describe a painting of a fashionable gathering, as well as the gathering itself. Similarly the ‘conversation piece’ describes a distinctive tradition within British art. The classic conversation piece is a group portrait of less than life-sized figures in a real setting, with some shared activity to bring the sitters together. This type of portraiture explores life-style and manners as well as individual character. In a simple portrait we are introduced to a person; in a conversation piece we seem to eavesdrop upon the lives of a family or society.

One or two paintings in this exhibition may be satirical; most consciously celebrate the prosperity, elegance and pleasure of fashionable life in Holland and England.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.