control and refine their passions and desires by rubbing and polishing them within the group.
They could thus reach that equilibrium, that ‘happy medium’ mentioned above, which was, in effect, the ideological designation
of a social space, the public sphere of the ‘middle class’, whose
territory continued to expand by pushing the nobility and ‘the
vulgar’ increasingly to the sides.
Conversation painting, like Addison’s essaywriting, thus appears
as the visual record – and modelling – of this search for the perfect
balance, as the representation of the refinement of