Otis House

The Dinner Party

To help with the restoration of this room Historic New England looked very closely at a painting called “The Dinner Party” by Boston artist Henry Sargent.  It depicted an elegant meal c. 1821 and provides a great deal of information about dining rooms of the era and how dinner parties were arranged. When recreating the Otis House dining room, the red curtains, wall-to-wall carpet, green crumb cloth under the table, and classical busts over the doors were all inspired by “The Dinner Party.”

It was common for dinner parties in the late eighteenth century to be exclusively for men, although the Otises gave parties for mixed groups.  The table in the Otis House dining room is set up almost identically to the table in the painting, with a fruit and nut course, several wine bottles and a single candle for lighting cigars.

Henry Sargent, American, 1770–1845
The Dinner Party, about 1821
Oil on canvas
156.53 x 126.36 cm (61 5/8 x 49 3/4 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