Pair of Diners with Gout
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2004.1310
This satirical image depicts two diners suffering from gout. This is a disease similar to arthritis that affects the joints, most commonly the big toe; hence the gentleman at the front of the image is resting his unshod foot on a large cushion.
Satirical prints from the 1700s often poke fun at the lavish tastes and greed of the wealthy. It was long thought that gout was caused by eating and drinking to excess. Recent research has dispelled this belief, though it is true that overindulgence can increase the likelihood of an attack of gout.
An article printed in Punch in 1846 discusses the large number of people in London suffering from gout, caused by "taking in the stomach too ample allowances of animal and other substances". In order to avoid this illness, it is recommended that people should "limit their supplies of food and drink".
This print is clearly intended to communicate the moral lesson that the gentlemen's afflictions are a result of their gluttony. Servants are offering trays of bread and joints of meat to the diners, while another offers a comically oversized cup of wine. On the table sits a large serving tray that has been cleared of its contents. Also on the table is a dish for salt and a lemon, which was a popular but expensive imported fruit during the 1700s.
Though dinner in the wealthy Georgian home was a less formal affair than in the later Victorian period, strict rules regarding proper conduct were still in place. The two men in this print are eating their meals with little regard for etiquette. The gentleman on the left almost has his face on his plate, which would undoubtedly be perceived as incredibly bad table manners.
Find out more…
Find out more about on science and health in the 1800s by visiting the website of the Humanities Research Institute Online, University of Sheffield:
This work forms part of the Bill Brown Collection. Supported by The Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust.