Artist: Nicolas Antoine Taunay (French, Paris 1755–1830 Paris)
Date: after 1810
Medium: Oil on wood
Dimensions: 6 3/8 x 8 5/8 in. (16.2 x 21.9 cm)
Credit Line: The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982
Accession Number: 1982.60.49
The picture presents a boisterous group of men gathered in a billiard room. Taunay was famous for his small-scale genre scenes, and the panel is most likely a reduction of a larger painting on canvas (private collection, Paris) that dates about 1808 and was displayed in the Salon that year. Louis Léopold Boilly presented a picture of a similar subject, A Billiard Game. The Metropolitan’s work was once paired with another panel by Taunay of the same size, Le Concert.
The figures in the billiard room are large in comparison to the architectural surroundings, and their personalities are expressed through colorful gestures and garments. The clamorous activity surrounding the game lends a masculine air. The interior has the nonchalant ambience of a gentleman’s club room, with a brass chandelier suspended above the billiard table and hats and cloaks hanging on the walls. Grey light floods the interior space through three windows on the side wall, one of which is set behind the archway and columns at the back of the room. This Palladian motif is seen elsewhere in Taunay’s oeuvre. Above the doorway, there is a statue of the goddess of victory holding a coin purse, a reminder that billiards and other games encourage vanity and avarice when wagers are on the line.
[Katharine Baetjer 2017]