It's been some weeks since I last posted anything and I fear it's rather too late to blame the Christmas period. After all, Easter eggs have been in the shops now since roughly one second past midnight on January 1st. Well, I'm not that quick to jump on a festive bandwagon, but with Shrove Tuesday shortly upon us, I feel only slightly premature in posting a chocolate-themed entry.
This painting, which originally hung in the Director's dining room at the Cadbury chocolate factory, Bournville, was painted by my grandfather, Robert Ball and a friend of his. At over 15 feet long and at least six high, the picture is enormous! I was lucky enough to see it a few years ago on a visit to the Cadbury corporate HQ, where it still hangs. The picture shows an imagined scene in White's Chocolate House, St James. White's was founded in Mayfair in 1693 by an Italian, Francesco Bianco. It became notorious for gambling and lives on today as an exclusive gentleman's club.
I love the imagination with which the scene has been conceived. There are the lady and gentlemen playing chess, the lady perhaps feigning simplemindedness to ensnare her opponent, the men of business discussing important affairs while the old woman is more interested in the hot chocolate. Then there are the couple on the balcony, perhaps having having a tiff, and the two older gentlemen flirting with the young woman in the foreground – watched intently by the two gossips beside the fireplace.
Ben Laughton Smith
Aspiring artist, training in the classical tradition.