Size: 29 x 24½ inches (76.3 x 62.3 cm)
Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1860
Original caption: ‘I got M D’s fourth letter today, at the coffee house, etc.’
This painting was auctioned at Sotheby’s on 29 March 1995, with an estimated price of £2000-£3000, although it only fetched £1,500. It was auctioned again at Sotheby’s on 11 October 1995, and again at Christie’s in South Kensington, London, on 24 May 2006, fetching £3,000. By January 2007 it was for sale at Martin Macleish Ltd (Martin Macleish Fine Paintings), 13 Dover Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4LN. It was auctioned again at Bonham’s on 13 September 2011.
Athenaeum, 19 May 1860:
Mr. Eyre Crowe, jun. sends a picture which, while it shows him to have made an advance in the mere qualities of execution, marks no other gain. His Dean Swift … wants concentrativeness of purpose to be expressed in the faces. Swift sits in one of the boxes at the coffee-house, reading ‘poor Stella’s’ letter. He has his head on one side in a characteristic manner, but he does not look at the letter with any earnestness; his eyes are too speculative by a great deal. Mr. Crowe disdains to make the principal figure of his picture to represent the most important individual of his subject, for the former position is taken by a dandy in a splendid sky-blue dress, who occupies the centre of the canvas, in the apparently simple action of receiving a three-cornered and rose-tinted note from the waitress. A card-party is seated at a table in the background. The whole of the picture wants life and unison of action – ‘consent’ as it is technically called. More solidity and sweetness of colour, as well as more diversity of the last quality, would do the artist greater justice than he seems inclined to do himself in seeking after these qualities.
Art Journal, June 1864:
The witty divine occupies a box while a dandy occupies the attentions of a pretty waitress… This was the best picture of its class the artist had hitherto exhibited; it evidenced originality and thought, with very considerable elaborateness in the manipulation.