The identity of these men in a fashionable interior has been lost, all except for the figure sketching from the floor. That is a self-portrait of Francis Hayman, whose bust by Roubiliac is shown nearby. These men are clearly of the highest social rank and exude all the trappings of prosperity: a Persian carpet, a marble mantelpiece with a painted landscape and ormolu ornament in the French taste, a Chinoiserie screen, the latest table and chairs of mahogany imported from South America, a silver wine jug, and clothes embroidered with silver and gold thread. Britain's wealth by this date was fueled by booming exports to colonies in North America and the Caribbean, and through the profits of the deplorable transportation of enslaved Africans to labor in plantations in those colonies. Hayman's picture is a powerful reminder that civilization and barbarism went hand in hand in eighteenth-century Britain.
Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016