Hall's work rarely appears at auction, but this striking and ambitious composition must rank amongst his finest productions. He specialised in genre scenes and historical subjects and showed at the Royal Academy and the British Institution. The Ferens Art Gallery in Hull have his Royal Academy exhibit of 1858, The Vacant Cradle.
The present picture is set outside a church where the beadle is separating two fighting boys. One is a street vendor, wearing an apron, whose basket has been upset by his assailant. The man precociously carrying a tray of plaster casts on his head is perhaps fortunate not to have become embroiled in the fracas, and adds a note of dramatic tension: at any moment his precious load might tumble. The obelisk is perhaps meant to evoke London: two obelisks, one dedicated to John Wilkes, the other to Alderman Waithman, stood near Ludgate Circus until 1918, but their design differed from Hall's obelisk. Hall was known to have been living in Hull in 1854, so the townscape could equally be Northern or imaginary.
Hall was not unaware of pictorial developments in London however, and the painting evokes a number of comparisons. The Fight Interrupted by William Mulready, although exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1816, was given to the South Kensington Museums in 1857 by William Sheepshanks, a year before this picture was painted and The Upset Flower Cart by W.A. Atkinson, now in the collection of Lord Lloyd Webber, was also executed contemporaneously.
We are grateful to Mireille Galinou, for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.