How curious we would find it today to have pets arrive by traveling salesman. Yet that's what's happening here in this gentle oil painting by George Morland (1763-1804), Selling Guinea Pigs. The vendor has carried them to the door in his straw-filled basket, and letting them stretch their legs as the family contemplates them. I love most the blonde toddler hunkered down rapt in watching - here's a detail:
George Morland came from a family full of accomplished artists, and was gifted to the point of becoming an honorary exhibitor at the Royal Society by the age of ten. It's said that his father shut him away from a normal child's fun and friends in order to keep him creating sellable work. I wonder if this didn't point him a little toward his life of getting taken by dealers and unsavory friends, for it's said he was cheerful and generous by nature, and a lonely child might grow up to be a man unable to tell a true friend from a user. His was a rumbunctious and short life, but he was able to paint animals in a tender, well-observed fashion: notice how sharp and detailed they are next to the palely washed people.