Mobile menu
Welcome back to the royal residences. Find out more about our measures to keep you safe.

The Conversation Piece

Scenes of Fashionable Life

Desmond Shawe-Taylor

 192 pages

First-class catalogue

Richard Dorment, Daily Telegraph

Cover for The Conversation Piece

Cover for The Conversation Piece ©

Paperback, 250 x 210 mm, 157 colour illustrations
ISBN 978 1 905686 07 0

The ‘Conversation Piece’ is an intriguing contradiction – the high-life group, but caught informally, off-guard. Popular in seventeenth-century Dutch painting, the genre was extended to include sporting events and ‘Grand Tourists’, and reached its apogee in the eighteenth century in the masterpieces created by Johann Zoffany for his English patrons, including George III.

This publication, the first on this subject for more than thirty years, provides a unique opportunity to connect the study of ‘the conversation’ in eighteenth-century English art to its seventeenth-century European predecessors.

Desmond Shawe-Taylor is Surveyor of The Queen's Pictures, Royal Collection Trust. 

Related exhibition
The Conversation Piece

Traces the roots of the Conversation Piece back to the Netherlands in the 17th century

Highlights from the publication

Bernardino Licinio (c. 1489-1565)

A Family Group

Bartholomeus van Bassen (Antwerp c.1590-The Hague 1652)

The King and Queen of Bohemia dining in Public

Ludolf de Jongh (Rotterdam 1616-Hillegersberg 1679)

A formal Garden: three Ladies surprised by a Gentleman

William Hogarth (1697-1764)

The Family of George II

Johan Joseph Zoffany (Frankfurt 1733-London 1810)

Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) with her Two Eldest Sons

Johan Joseph Zoffany (Frankfurt 1733-London 1810)

Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) with members of her family

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73)

The Royal Family in 1846

Sir Francis Grant (1803-78)

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) riding out