Once a week we take a painting, or piece of sculpture, that interests us, tell you a bit about it and hope it sparks something with you and your families. We would love to hear of any recommendations.
1754, National Gallery, London
It is breakfast time, and an elegantly dressed woman watches a little girl dip her biscuit into a full-to-the-brim cup of milky coffee or maybe chocolate? Both coffee and chocolate were expensive luxuries in the eighteenth century often served at breakfast so it is appropriate that they are being served from finest porcelain and silverware. Although there is little in the background, this, the fashionable high-backed cane chairs and the clothing suggest they are well-off.
Liotard referred to the pair as mother and daughter and has captured this tender moment beautifully. It is early morning and so the little girl is wearing paper curlers and the concentration and hint of a smile on the little girls face is – we think – heartwarming. Liotard's uses wet pastels to create texture and the lavish attention on the still-life elements is remarkable. Look at the dull silver pot with its wooden handle, the ceramic milk jug, the detailed delicate pattern on the Chinese porcelain that are all reflected on the lacquer tray. The sheet music that is poking out from the drawer even has a minute signature and date on it.
The Lavergne Family Breakfast has long been considered Liotard's masterpiece and when the National Gallery opens its doors again you can visit the picture In the main collection.
Anya Waddington 6 February 2021