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As the title indicates, the picture expounds the effects of intemperance, and these are made clearly visible in every detail. The master of the house (bearing the artist’s own facial features ) is too busy love-making to care about the chaos that will soon engulf him, the mother is having her pocket picked as she slumbers in a drunken stupor, the dog is eating the meat in the foreground, and the maid, who has stolen a necklace, is entertaining a fiddler. Less obviously, an unwatched roast has fallen into the fire in the next room, a monkey – a symbol of ‘everything sub-human in man, of lust, greed, gluttony and shamelessness in the widest possible sense’– has stopped the clock, and even the oystershells in the foreground are unduly large.

English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House



The Dissolute Household




oil on canvas


H 80.5 x W 89 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

management transferred from the Victoria and Albert Museum to English Heritage, 2004

Work type



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Normally on display at

English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House

149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, London, Greater London W1J 7NT England

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