The late 19th century fashion for paintings depicting lively groups of elaborately dressed cavaliers and their ladies - illustrated by the present work and by others in this sale by Lesrel, Sorolla, Benlliure and Rafalli - was inspired, in part, by the movement amongst artists such as Delacroix, Ingres and Delaroche earlier in the century away from the purely classical, religious or mythological subject towards scenes inspired by more recent French history.
Its roots, however, can be traced further back to the 17th century and to the 'Company' pictures of Dutch guilds most famously executed by Frans Hals and Rembrandt. These large, fluent assemblies, along with their more modest if equally vivacious single figure versions, were enjoying a critical renaissance in the 1860s. Paris, the greatest repository of Hals' art outside Holland, was set alight with admiration for his work and its influence was manifest from the concious hommages of Ferdinand Roybet to the less overt debt of Edouard Manet. Hals' so-called Laughing Cavalier, for instance, was the subject of a celebrated Parisian saleroom battle in 1865 between the Marquess of Hertford and baron James de Rothschild, finally being secured by the former for the spectacular price of 51,000 francs, with its subsequent exhibition in Britain and entry into the Wallace Collection establishing it as a popular icon.
The tableaux costums of Lesrel and his contemporaries such as Franois Brunery and Francesco Beda - for whom the rococo curlicues of Louis XV settings were more preferable - also owe something to another strain of Dutch art from the Golden Age, namely the Leiden fijnschilder. Gerrit Dou, Gabriel Metsu and Frans and Willem van Mieris, with their scenes replete with meticulous detail and a glassy precision of finish, offered the 19th century artists examples of virtuosically executed but accessible subjects, often invested with a wryly humorous subtext.