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Cabin scenes are rare in oil painting and this is the most famous example in British art. This conversation piece was probably commissioned by the sitter, the youngest son of the first Duke of Montrose, to celebrate his action off Ostend in June 1745. While commanding the frigate 'Bridgwater', Graham had attacked a squadron of French privateers, capturing valuable prizes. His reward was the command of the larger 'Nottingham'.
A black servant boy stands on the far right behind Graham, playing a pipe and tabor. Behind the table a standing man, presumably a singer, holds a sheet of music which affirms that music unites the group. On the left, Graham's dog appears to join the singing. On the right a pug sits upright on a chair, wearing Graham's wig and holding a scroll. He represents Hogarth's dog, Trump, thus the artist has placed himself in the portrait. The inclusion of servants and dogs invites a satirical commentary on Captain Graham and his circle. Graham and the boy both have pipes and the boy's attire mimics his master's. Similarly Trump's senatorial pose, in Graham's wig, apes the formality of his official position. Only the steward on the left directly confronts the viewer with his gaze. His smile invites the spectator into the picture, while he seems unaware that he is tipping gravy down the back of the man in front of him. Hogarth has thus introduced elements of humour into the portrait, which also implies political allusions.
oil on canvas
H 68.5 x W 88.9 cm