Otis House

The Tea Party

To help with the restoration of this room Historic New England looked very closely at a painting “The Tea Party” by Boston artist Henry Sargent.  The painting depicts a tea party about 1824 and provides a great deal of information about the furnishings, costume and social mores of the era. The opulent interior features wall-to-wall carpeting, fine furniture of the latest taste, and women in stylish Empire gowns.

Tea parties were often early evening events that were less formal than a dance and were a way to entertain a large group of people without having to serve a full dinner.  Room use was very flexible during the Federal era, and light, wooden furniture on casters was often rearranged to make conversational and intimate groupings during such an event.

Henry Sargent, American, 1770–1845
The Tea Party, about 1824
Oil on canvas
163.51 x 133.03 cm (64 3/8 x 52 3/8 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Mrs. Horatio Appleton Lamb in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Winthrop Sargent

Photograph copyright 2020 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston