painting of an old couple raising a glass to each other at their dining table in an expensively furnished room

'Darby and Joan' by Walter Dendy Sadler (1854-1923), painted about 1889

The term Darby and Joan is used to described an elderly married couple who have led a long and contented life together. The 18th century writer and journalist Henry Sampson Woodfall first mentioned the couple in a poem entitled 'The Joys of Love never forgot. A Song'. It is possible he named the character Darby after his previous employer.

The artist Sadler specialised in scenes of everyday life, often set in earlier centuries. Here he depicts a seemingly devoted couple enjoying a meal in the very comfortable surroundings of their home. Their relaxed and affectionate gestures, as they raise a toast to each other, evoke a life without hardship. 

This painting, which is not currently on display, is from the Sudley House collection. It is a replica of a painting that Sadler first exhibited at London’s Grosvenor Gallery in 1889, although it differs slightly from the original, which had swags around the fireplace. The original was one of a series painted by the artist on the theme of ancient lovers.

Accession number WAG 296