One of the most renowned artists of Russian genre painting, Vasilii Perov (1834-1882) has a special place among the 'Wanderers' and was devoted to the 'muse of wrath and sorrow'. From an impecunious background, Perov had his first success in 1856 and focused his talent on the criticism of social inequality and the dark side of Russian life. In 1862 he was sent abroad but suffered from home-sickness, and returned home after the emancipation of the serfs. In 1869 he joined the 'Wanderers' but produced fewer paintings with a social content, turning to portraits and more humorous scenes from provincial life.
The present work, known as 'Beseda za kruglym stolom', was until recently only known from a reproduction in an article written by A. A. Kisselev published in the magazine Artist in 1894. A pencil sketch of the composition entitled 'Politians' (Politiki) is in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.