Manchester Art Gallery

"A Midnight Modern Conversation"

Object description

Deep circular punch bowl with straight sloping sides tapering to flat well and prominent footring. Decorated with a pale bluish white tin-glaze, painted inside bowl in cobalt blue with tavern scene after Hogarth, entitled 'A MIDNIGHT MODERN CONVERSATION' in scroll set beneath the scene. Scene comprises eleven men in eighteenth century dress, drinking and smoking around a long table on which is placed a large punch bowl. In the drunken chaos, chairs are overturned and a man flails on the ground in centre foreground. Behind the table to left a man stands with glass raised in one hand. Panelled wall in the background with longcase clock to right. Scene bordered with rococo scallop shell and foliage motifs, repeated in larger border around rim interior. Exterior sides painted in blue with stag-hunting scene set in English landscape, the stag in manganese purple, set upon by hounds and surrounded on both sides by hounds and figures on horseback. Rolling hills in the background, scattered with trees and buildings. Bowl rim edged in red. Underside painted in blue with inscription 'LAWRENCE HAR(RISO)N / 1748' within blue circle.

Display label

Punch bowl Made by Lawrence Harrison, Liverpool 1748 Earthenware, white tin-glaze painted in cobalt-blue The inside of this bowl depicts a riotous scene of smoking and drunken debauchery. Aristocratic men are shown wigs askew, puffing on pipes, falling drunkenly over and drinking from a punch bowl like this one. This was a punch party in the 1700s! The image is taken from William Hogarth's painting, 'A Midnight Modern Conversation'. It reflects people's impression of punch-drinking and its general associations with over-indulgence. Although it may be an exaggeration of such parties, it provides an idea of how these bowls were used. Thomas Greg bequest 1923.261