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The Connoisseurs: John Caw (died 1784), John Bonar (1747 - 1807) and James Bruce

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The Connoisseurs: John Caw (died 1784), John Bonar (1747 - 1807) and James Bruce 1783

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
David Allan specialised in small-scale group portraits, called 'conversation pieces', which showed people, usually families, in contemporary and informal settings. Here, his subject is three friends, depicted as 'connoisseurs', that is, as knowledgeable and appreciative of the fine arts. John Caw holds up an engraving after a painting by Raphael of St John the Baptist, which his companions discuss. The small portrait of the wall behind them may be an absent, or even a deceased, friend.

Glossary Open

Conversation piece

A portrait group, usually comprising several figures from the same family or group of friends engaged in everyday pursuits. This form of painting was particularly popular in 18th century England.


The printmaking technique in which an image is inscribed on a copper plate with a tool that cuts a groove in the surface. This groove holds the ink that creates the print when it is applied to paper. Also refers to the method of making an incision on a material such as glass.

Conversation piece, Engraving


  • Acc. No. NG 2260
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 87.50 x 101.90 cm (framed: 106.50 x 117.60 x 9.00 cm)
  • Credit Purchased 1963