Coming Down to Dinner

John Callcott Horsley, 1817 - 1903

Coming Down to Dinner

John Callcott Horsley 1817 - 1903


An imagined domestic scene in seventeenth-century costume, showing a group of figures processing down a staircase into the hallway of a stately home to be greeted and waited on by staff. The staircase dominates the centre of the composition and the light from the leaded glass windows that run down the far wall illuminate all the figures processing down it. At the head of the group is a regal boy, followed by a woman and an older man who walk together. Behind them is a man of the church, who has paused on a bend in the staircase to admire a painting hung on the wall; behind him are another three figures, only partially visible. The figures descend into a large hallway with a chequered stone floor and dark, wood-panelled walls. At the foot of the stairs, to the right, is a bearded man wearing a ruff, standing to attention and holding a rod parallel to his body in an outstretched left arm. Behind him, peering from a shadowy doorway, are the figures of a youth and two men. At the regal boy's feet is a small dog, probably a spaniel, wearing a long, blue leash tied in a ribbon on the back of its neck, which crouches and looks up at the young boy. To the right of the composition is a young male child seated on a long bench at a dining table, which is on a low platform, who points towards the regal boy on the stairs; at the extreme right is the partial figure of a black male servant, cleaning the back of an ornately carved chair. To the left of the stairs is a group of female staff, including a woman with her back to the viewer, her knuckles resting on the rustic table before her, who faces two servants in similar uniform and a third figure in less functional clothing.

Display Label

Coming Down to Dinner 1876 John Calcott Horsley 1817 - 1903 Oil on canvas Horsley liked theatricality in his painting. Here the family descends the staircase as if they are making their entrance onto the stage. The costume evokes the period of Charles 11. Horsley was also influenced by Dutch interiors for a scene that is homely rather than eventful. Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, inspired the setting. It was the model for Sir Walter Scott's Martin Dale Hall in the popular historic novel Peveril of the Peak. The painting was commissioned by Henry Lee, a Manchester cotton manufacturer. He appears in the painting as the bearded man at the foot of the stairs. Henry Lee Bequest 1905.22

Object Name

Coming Down to Dinner

Creators Name

John Callcott Horsley

Date Created



Canvas: 124.1cm x 163cm
Frame: 160.5cm x 200cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint


© Manchester Art Gallery

Fill out my online form.