Painting and Frame, High Life Below Stairs
In this richly detailed satirical painting, artist John Collet depicted the servants of an English household aping the fashionable behaviors of their employers. At center, a simpering lady’s maid delicately rests her foot on a broken, overturned tub, while a manservant dresses her powdered hair. The little girl to the right watches closely as she, in turn, applies a similar treatment to her doll. On the left, one servant plays a stylish English guitar while another sings along. They are accompanied by the dog in the foreground, which sits with one paw on a book of music and howls his own version of the song. Meanwhile, the general clutter, the tattered tablecloth, the jumbled arrangement of ornaments on the mantel, and other details convey the household staff’s inability to achieve the reality of the lifestyle they mimic.